Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap

“The Art of Rap is the first Ice-T film.” –first line in Ice-T’s first film The Art of Rap

Some of you may know Ice-T as a kangaroo man from TANK GIRL, or a Lo-Tek in JOHNNY MNEMONIC. Some may know him for his appearances in whichever Law & Order crime drama it is. For others he’s the guy for some reason you always confuse with Ice Cube even though they look and sound totally different from each other. But you may have also heard that before all that he was a pioneering west coast rapper. I still bust out his albums Power and O.G. – Original Gangster every once in a while, and they hold up well.

Well, now Ice-T is also a documentarian. He says he got tired of how interviewers always ask him about money and girls and cars and feuds but never about lyrics. So he decided to make a movie where he just interviews rappers about “the art of rap.” He narrates and appears on camera in conversation with various rappers, mostly legendary ones. It’s not a history of the music, or even of each career. It’s rappers talking about how they write, what inspired them to start, what rhymes they love from other rappers, what “wack” means to them, stuff like that. “This isn’t a game, this is the art of rap,” Ice says near the beginning and again at the end. I like that, because so many rappers (including Ice) always refer to rap as “the game” and talk about it like it’s a sport. I like that he’s acknowledging that it’s an art.

The first guy he talks to is Lord Jamar from Brand Nubian. At first I thought it was an odd choice, but it ends up being one of the best interviews. He even accidentally makes up the “Something From Nothing” part of the movie’s title. (I like to think the double title is in the tradition of Ice’s third album, The Iceberg / Freedom of Speech… Just Watch What You Say. He couldn’t decide between two titles so he used them both.)

Jamar laughs about his first failed attempt to rhyme to an instrumental of “The Breaks” and gets Ice reciting old rhymes from a group he had called “The EPA – Eliminators Pimpin’ Association.” He also makes a good point about how it used to be more common for young black people to play instruments before budgets started getting cut from the schools. Then some people figured out a way to make turntables into an instrument, to the point where they exist today more for that use than for the original one.

There are some questions that Ice seems to ask all of his subjects, but he doesn’t then edit them together and jump between interviews to draw parallels. It’s done more like a road trip with Ice interviewing a bunch of rappers in New York, then Eminem in Detroit, then everybody else in L.A. (I guess movies have brought alot of East Coasters to California: MC Lyte, Common, Kool Moe Dee.) To make it comfortable he talks only to people he’s friends with and in their homes or studios. Doug E. Fresh does his in a soul food restaurant he owns. That’s one of the best. He beatboxes, recites favorite rhymes by Kool Moe Dee, brilliantly describes the differences in rappers’ lyrical styles.

It would be cool if in just one of these interviews Munch was there too asking a couple of the questions.

In between there’s all kinds of nice digital footage of the cities, mostly helicopter shots of the buildings. It visually emphasizes the importance of regions and environments to hip hop. Ice also leaves in a little bit of the making-the-movie shit: he gets annoyed by people walking into the shot while he’s interviewing Q Tip on a street corner, Ras Kass helps him get in touch with Xzibit, etc.

One thing I love is when he gets them to recite favorite rhymes from other rappers. I wish he could’ve included more, but I’m sure they didn’t want to go broke on the publishing. Alot of times it’s a song Ice loves too, and he’ll smile and join in. In the case of Immortal Technique it’s Ice’s own “New Jack Hustler,” and you can tell he’s flattered.

They also do freestyles or verses from their own songs, always acapella. To me that never sounds as good, because a big part of rhyming is interacting with the beat, but it fits Ice’s mission of shining the spotlight on the words rather than the sound. In his interview with Pepa they talk in horror about people (including their own spouses) who say “I don’t listen to the lyrics.”

I kinda wish they got more technical about it, but at its best the interviews really do get into the art, or at least the craft. Rakim explains how he literally graphs out his rhymes. Ice asks Eminem about his complex rhyme structures: “Do they come complicated, or do you complicate them?” Some talk about keeping rhymes in their head, others make fun of that idea. We see lyric sheets laid out in front of some of them. Chuck D’s are typed up and show his background in design. We even get to see a couple of them sit quietly writing down lyrics, mouthing lines to themselves as they work them out.

I don’t think this is really accessible enough to recommend to non-rap people, but all the better for the rest of us. There are so many highlights: Nas launching into en epic in-character rant about people who resent rappers, KRS lecturing about the pitfalls of asking the audience to say “ho” before winning them over with rhymes, Ice admitting to faking microphone troubles when he forgets a lyric, Chuck D talking about being heckled by the one and only Melle Mel.

Many old school legends are highlighted, including Afrika Bambaata, Melle Mel, Grandmaster Caz, Run DMC, Kool Keith, Rakim, Big Daddy Kane. It’s interesting to see how they’ve all aged. Kool Moe Dee got pretty fat, but he’s earned it. Dre, if you haven’t heard, turned into a muscleman.

Some of them I think prove that they still have it. Ice Cube kind of seems like an ex-rapper these days, and when I saw him live a year or two ago I was horribly disappointed. But the verse he spits here shows that that brain that wrote all those classic rhymes for himself and Eazy E is still in shape. Caz, best known as an uncredited writer of “Rapper’s Delight,” gets maybe more screen time than anyone and shows off some great lyricism. But it made me uncomfortable that his freestyle used the n-word at the end of every rhyme. I had to turn it down so the neighbors don’t hear it. #whitepeopleproblems

(Note: Ice-T’s song “Straight Up Nigga,” co-written by Melle Mel, might use the word even more times. This is probly Ice getting stuck in the middle of an ongoing battle between pioneers.)

Busy Bee is only on the extras. Biz Markie and LL Cool J are suspicously MIA. Of the newer people, I’m surprised he didn’t get Jay-Z on there, but maybe he doesn’t know him very well. And he’s been in a couple docs already. Raekwon is the only Wu-Tanger in the movie, which is weird. I think Ghostface and GZA are some of the best lyricists and could offer unique insights. Maybe he’ll make a part 2. “The Art of Rap 2 is the second Ice-T film.”

But it’s okay that not everybody’s on there because the one big problem with the movie is that there are so many people interviewed that none of them are very in-depth, almost all of them seem way too short. Speaking of which, Too Short himself was cut entirely out of the movie, but is seen in some outtakes included on the DVD. Some of those are pretty good. I liked the part where Ice-T and Ice Cube talk about their methods – T sits down for a couple hours to write a rap, then has to immediately go to the studio to record it. Cube likes to write the first two verses, then let it “marinate” before he writes the third verse so he can end as strong as possible. Ice talks to King Tee (who is very humble about Notorious B.I.G. citing him as an influence) and Tash of the Alkaholiks (whose mom calls him during the interview and he puts her on speaker phone to tease her about when she had a crush on Ice-T).

This is not a masterpiece of documentarianism, but it’s a valuable addition to the slowly expanding library of hip hop docs, and I hope Ice-T will continue directing and getting better. Alot of people probly assume that SOMETHING FROM NOTHING is Ice’s second documentary, after ICE-T’S PIMPIN’ 101:


but he didn’t actually direct that one, that was directed by Tony Diablo. Still, since he’s done one about pimping and one about rapping you gotta assume the next one will be about the kangaroos in TANK GIRL. So I look forward to it. And I ain’t got no reason to lie to you.

note: at the end, before any credits, there’s an “RIP” list of deceased rappers. Before you’re like me and get surprised to see Malik B on there let me assure you that I looked it up and the Malik B who is an on-again-off-again founding member of The Roots is still alive.

And I didn’t see Rammelzee on there.


This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 19th, 2012 at 2:26 am and is filed under Documentary, Music, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

232 Responses to “Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap”

  1. As a thirty-something Hiphop-fan since my childhood and growing up listening to a lot of the rappers that are in the documentary, I have to admit I was disappointed by “The Art of Rap…”, Ice-T’s first movie.
    Of course I loved to see all those legends talk about their craft, but like you said, nothing was really indepth. As a fan I didn’t learn anything new, didn’t hear anything I hadn’t heard before. So the question is: Who is this documentary for? It certainly is not for people who don’t know a lot about Rap (a.k.a. people “who don’t listen to the lyrics”) but it also isn’t really for people who are into it because there is nothing you learn from it. It more like Ice-T reminiscing with his old friends. It’s alright, but certainly nothing I’ve been waiting for as a Rap-Fan.
    Nice Review Vern. BTW: Somehow I always thought you’re a black guy… dunno why.

  2. I’m pumped to see this one. In a time where I think rap truly has gone pop and lost a lot of its edge, it’s cool to see O.O.G. out here documentarizing with real legends and those carrying the mantle.

  3. Been wanting to see this one for a while. And now it’s time to search the VOD channels.

  4. The Original... Paul

    September 19th, 2012 at 9:00 am

    I will happily admit that rap is one of the musical disciplines that I know precisely nothing about, and I’ve never once confused Ice-T with Ice Cube.

    Very good review. The film actually sounds interesting, although I don’t know if that’s enough to make me go see it. Maybe if there’s nothing else on at the cinema at the time.

    Going to review the Katy Perry doc next, Vern?

  5. As both an Ice-T fan and a Ramm-ell-zee fan, I find it entirely fitting that the one is too out there to make the other’s cheesy RIP list

  6. Um, is anyone else just getting diehard buttons instead of words on the articles? I’m on Safari on my iPhone.

  7. There’s some testing going on to fix some “performance issues” (not me, the websight) so don’t worry about weird shit happening. But the all Die Hard version sounds pretty good.

  8. I thought this was cool, but if you want to get REALLY in depth, there is an excellent book which came out a few years before this, where they interviewed a lot more rappers and asked them way more detailed questions, it’s the book called:
    “How to Rap: The Art & Science of the Hip-Hop MC”

    It has a Kool G Rap foreword and Rammelzee gets mentioned in it!

    They interviewed some of the same people (Kane, Chuck D, Royce, Q-Tip, B-Real, Immortal Technique) and also got a lot of the other really lyrical guys like AZ, Pharoahe Monch, Pharcyde, Del, Souls of Mischief, Das EFX, Black Moon…
    really great read…

  9. I am a bad old school hip-hop fan/former 14-year-old whose favorite tape was O.G., because I didn’t go see this in the theater when I had the chance. I’m gonna rectify that on DVD as soon as possible. It’s too bad Too Short got cut, because he’s always a good interview, surprisingly humble and sweet-natured, but with great quotes like “There’s only so many ways a man can say ‘Bitch, suck my dick.'” #bayarearapperproblems

  10. Man, I am so out of touch with this shit. Used to casually listen to some of it back in the 80’s and early 90’s, but never to the extent where I could tell you who did what on which album.

    Besides, I live in South Africa. The only rap we have is kwaito (examples of which you’ll probably have heard in Tsotsi), some of which is really quite good, and Jack Parow.

    So yeah, someone educate me. Which classics should I listen to? Are the Beastie Boys still acceptable? Because I remember listening to Paul’s Boutique a lot.

  11. Just throwing it out there, but I would be very curious to see a documentary on Dr. Dre’s life. The craft as well as the man.

    In the Cop Land thread, we’ve veered into psychoanalyzing actors, and Dre’s a favorite topic of mine in the celebrity psychoanalyzing dept. Because I dig his music, and because I think he’s something of an enigma. Just throwing out some interesting bullets:
    -He’s the highest paid rapper on this year’s Forbes list.
    -He hasn’t put out an album of his own in over a decade, and his Detox is widely regarded as the Chinese Democracy of rap (or maybe now it’s vice versa).
    -There have been ongoing rumors about his sexuality, which is interesting in the context of the bad-ass misogynist homophobe image that launched his career
    -Despite his gangsta image and pioneer status with NWA, he’s also considered something of a “studio gangsta” who doesn’t really have the true street credibility of a Snoop.
    -He’s had various notorious falling outs with other interesting personalities, including Eazy-E and 2pac.
    -He doesn’t actually write any of his own raps.
    -There have been numerous accusations of him having limited involvement in actual musical production and of stealing beats from his evolving coterie of production partners (Mel Man, Daz, J-Flexx, Scott Storch)
    -Again, despite his tough guy image, he tends to be retiring and self-conscious when it comes to interviews or speaking on camera
    -He abruptly got super-ripped about five years back and go onto this weird thing of wearing overly form fitting shirts to showcase his muscle in what is either a over-the-top plea for attention/body image thing or just bad fashion sense.
    -He launched Eminem’s career–the guy from a group called NWA that was seen as so threatening to White America actually made the first “street legit”/commercially successful white rapper.
    -He has produced a number of albums that would fall on most top 20 rap albums of all time lists.
    -At 47, he’s one of the oldest active (semi-active) rappers

    Anyway, just a random smattering of observations that collectively make him a very compelling character for me. I doubt he’d ever be a part of a truly probing documentary, but I’d pay to see it.

  12. The Beastie Boys are still more than acceptable. They never put out a bad album, but they’re not really a good starting point for classic hip-hop. They did their own thing. It’d be like trying to get into rock by listening to They Might Be Giants.

    Here’s a short list of favorites, some of which any random asshole will recommend but that doesn’t stop them from being awesome. Please forgive my blatant pro-New York prejudice. I’ve tried to list a few West Coast albums for variety:

    Gang Starr – DAILY OPERATION
    Nas – ILLMATIC
    Redman – WHUT? THEE ALBUM
    A Tribe Called Quest – THE LOW END THEORY
    Jeru the Damaja – THE SUN RISES IN THE EAST
    The Beatnuts – STREET LEVEL
    Wu Tang Clan – ENTER THE WU TANG
    Ice Cube -DEATH CERTIFICATE
    N.W.A. – EFIL4ZAGGIN (Be aware that this is a disgusting display of violence and misogyny that just happens to be way better produced than THE CHRONIC)
    The Pharcyde – BIZARRE RIDE II THE PHARCYDE
    De La Soul – BUHLOONE MINDSTATE (Many will tell you to start with 3 FEET HIGH & RISING. This is a mistake. Their third album is the perfect blend of their early weirdness and their later seriousness.)
    Boogie Down Productions – SEX & VIOLENCE
    Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth – THE MAIN INGREDIENT (I like it better than MECCA & THE SOUL BROTHER. Shoot me.)
    Eric B & Rakim – FOLLOW THE LEADER (PAID IN FULL is the icon but it’s a little sparse for a beginner.)
    Public Enemy – IT TAKES A NATION OF MILLIONS TO HOLD US BACK
    GZA – LIQUID SWORDS
    Ice-T – O.G. ORIGINAL GANGSTER (The rare rap album that gives the full measure of the man who made it. Even the skits mean something.)
    The Geto Boys – THE GETO BOYS (The most hilariously offensive album of all time. When the midget starts bragging about getting his balls sucked you’ll be a fan for life.)

    I could do this all day, because I am a cranky old hip-hop fan who believes with every molecule of his being that things used to be better back in the day when all these damn kids weren’t autotuning and teaching each other how to dougie all over my lawn. But here’s a rule of thumb: If it was made between 1991 and 1997 and looks good, it probably is.

  13. “But here’s a rule of thumb: If it was made between 1991 and 1997 and looks good, it probably is.”

    I’d say if it’s between 1986 and 1998 personally. You can’t just overlook the early Kool G Rap and Big Daddy Kane albums or THE GREAT ADVENTURES OF SLICK RICK. Same with BDP especially when the first 4 albums were all superior to SEX & VIOLENCE

  14. I always thought Real Ni–az Don’t Die was one of the more inspired samples of NWA/Dr. Dre’s career.

  15. They’re still trying to do an N.W.A. biopic, which I would like to see. But yeah, a thorough documentary on Dre could be amazing.

    The thing you mention about his sexuality, though – as far as I know that’s just based on Eazy and Cube making fun of what he wore in World Classing Wrecking Crew to belittle him. They were all calling each other gay on diss records back then, I don’t think it means anything other than I gotta be embarrassed when I get to that part of the CD.

    Thanks for the book recommendation, I’ll check it out. I’m also a fan of Kool Moe Dee’s book where he ranks the greatest rappers of all time based on his own convoluted criteria. (I forget which number he put himself at, but it was pretty high.)

  16. Broddie, I totally agree. I love eighties rap, but I think it can come off as silly and simplistic to the untrained ear. Early-to-mid-nineties hip-hop has a sophistication to the sound and subject matter that makes it a better gateway to the genre, in my opinion.

  17. Yeah, Ice Cube is a great talent and an important voice in modern American politics…but “No Vaseline” is hard to stomach.

  18. I also got into rap through Beastie Boys and Rage Against the Machine…

    Efil4Zaggin is also a fuckin’ classic. It’s disgusting, but 100 Miles and Running is too cool for words. Definitely better than The Chronic, which, in my opinion doesn’t even rate. I just don’t get the appeal, at all. Dre is a totally whack lyricist and even when he has ghost writers, his flow leaves a lot to be desired.

    Frankly — and I know this is an unpopular opinion, especially in these parts — hip-hop today *sounds* better than it ever has. The flows are more complex, the production is insane and the use of language, wordplay and intertextual references is really, really pleasurable for me. Is it as smart and edgy as it used to be? Hell no. Is it more misogynistic and often fairly minstrely, hell yes. Is it hard for me to listen to an entire album all the way through without feeling depressed, even when most of the songs are designed to make you happy, yeah pretty much. But in small doses, there are some really amazing things happening.

    Of course, I also sing Girl Talk songs in the shower. So, perhaps I’m not the best person to assess all this.

  19. Wait a minute, The Chronic “doesn’t even rate”? Nuthin But a G Thang calls up your your “sounds better” modern bullshit, makes dick jokes and hangs up. Are you kidding me? Doesn’t even rate. Doesn’t even rate.

    Please read this as angry muttering.

    Half the album is Snoop when he was like 19 and brand new to the world! You act like you forgot about Dre.

  20. By the way, I’m gonna regret this, but what is this hip hop today that sounds better? And why are they so secretive about it?

  21. The Original... Paul

    September 20th, 2012 at 2:08 am

    Majestyk – I got one comment on that list – those albums count as hip-hop? Any of them?

    Of the artists you list, I’m familiar on a superficial level at least with several of them: Nas, A Tribe Called Quest, Ice Cube, Wu-Tang Clan, NWA, Public Enemy, De La Soul and (thanks to you guys) Rakim. And honestly, with the possible exception of De La Soul, I wouldn’t think of ANY of them as “hip hop”. Maybe I’m making a distinction that isn’t there but I’d think that while hip-hop can include rap, not all rap is hip-hop. I’d say those artists are rap artists, not hip-hop artists.

    If you asked me what my idea of hip-hop was, the artists I would immediately think of would be the likes of Outkast, the Fugees, maybe Cypress Hill?

  22. The Original... Paul

    September 20th, 2012 at 2:11 am

    Holy crap Vern, you’re up early. It’s gotta be – what – 4AM over there?

  23. Paul, if you’re gonna make a distinction between the two terms then it would be that hip hop is the larger culture that also includes graffiti, breakdancing, DJing, and beatboxing. Rapping or MCing is just one element of hip hop.

    Some people use it in a snobbish kind of way where “hip hop” is only the music that comes out of and pays respect to the history of that culture, and “rap” is a lesser more mainstream version of that, fake hip hop.

    But by either definition all of the artists you listed are clearly hip hop.

    What is the distinction you’re trying to make there? I thought maybe you were separating Outkast and Fugees for doing so much singing, but Cypress Hill kills that theory.

    That reminds me of this song I love where KRS-One elaborates on the meaning of hip hop… turns out there’s a video for it too:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l1z8lCFoLW4

  24. Oh damn, that one led me to this all star rhymefest for the last episode of Arsenio:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=-YU9sefKFrw

    Look at that lineup. Doesn’t even have Busta, Public Enemy or anybody from NWA and it’s amazing. Just *some* of the best rappers in ’94. The last Yo MTV Raps in ’95 is even more epic.

    Tawdry, who would you put on your modern era dream team?

  25. Vanilla Ice,anyone?

  26. Ninja rap is as black as I get….naw. Not really. Recently I tried to diversify my listening. And that includes hip hop. From Wu Tang Clan to Gangstagrass. Even german hip hop!

  27. Yeah, the Kool Moe Dee book was great, to hear a legend speaking on other MCs and ranking them was cool…
    I think he put himself at no.5, though I think that’s fair enough!

    Btw, the Kool Moe Dee book is out of print now, it changes hands for about $400 a copy last time I checked…

  28. Shoot, what German hip hop acts are you listening to?

  29. Well,I recommended a friend of mine from Germany to listen to Wu Tang Clan and then he said he used to listen to german hip hopp. I admit my ignorance but I started to giggle at the very idea of german hiphop. Something about that just sounded hilarious (sorry). But I listened to a couple of songs of B-Tight and was really enjoying it. Nigga Bums Mich is pretty catchy.

  30. Yeah, I’m not really a fan of B-Tight and the German Gangster rap scene as a whole, but I can see that that their stuff is way more fun if you don’t understand the lyrics. My problem is that it just feels too forced. German Hip Hop has always been known for mostly being fun and uplifting, but then a few years those angry Aggro kids broke into mainstream and just tried to push the envelope for shock’s sake.
    I think the best of that New German Gangsta bunch (I just made this name up) was Sido. Meanwhile he became softer and more irrelevant, but his tracks had that Eminem-ish mix of true hate and dark humor, coupled with well produced beats, that made even stuff like “Arschficksong” (Assfucksong), which is only about how much he loves anal sex and how he not just abused his girlfriend, but also fucked some other guy in the ass when he tried to diss him, fun to listen to. But my favourite track of his might be “Ausm Weg”

    http://youtu.be/km-ZRm_c2Qo

    All in all I’m still more a fan of the classic fun side of German Hip Hop. Dendemann’s 2010 album “Vom Vintage verweht” was my favourite CD of that year and I always liked his old project Eins Zwo. Unfortunately most of those old guys either suck these days (Fettes Brot) or don’t seem to exist in their old formation anymore (5 Sterne Deluxe, Beginner…).

  31. Brother Ali — my absolute favorite rapper. Such clear storytelling and moral clarity, all within a package that makes him the prime example of a good media role model. Proudly Muslim. Proudly political. And full of a strong morality that clearly comes from his faith and presents a great example of why people who think Islam is the enemy are racist bastards. He always comes hard, every track, every line. But sounding cool is never enough, it always means something too.

    Murs — What can I say, Murs is a fucking scientist.

    Atmosphere — Yeah, I’m all over Rhymesayers. Weirdly, I didn’t realize that like, 4 of my favorite rappers were on the same record label until a few weeks ago. I knew Ali and Atmosphere, but I didn’t know Murs or MF Doom were associated acts. Or Freeway, for that matter.

    Dead Prez — Holy shit, actually edgy. Not controversial because they’re stupid, controversial because they’re smart.

    Immortal Technique — unbelievably complex flow, lots of tracks where the sample hook follows the theme of the song in an interestingly juxtaposed way. Very smart guy, even if he is a “Truther.”

    Kanye — Better lyricist rapper than Dre and a much more varied pallet in production.

    Eminem — He lost me for a few albums, but Slim Shady, Marshall Mathers and Recovery and unforgettable and singular.

    Outkast/Big Boi and Andre 3000 individually — They were in your golden age, but I really think Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, might be their masterpiece.

    Lil Wayne — say what you will, but the man rewrote the entire genre with his free association style and did it pretty much exclusively with freestyles. It’s almost Joycean at times.

    Childish Gambino — Still green, but hyper-literate and crazy punchlines. Like Wayne/Drake/Kanye mixed, but smarter than any of them. And occasionally more pathetic, intentionally.

    NaS — Still relevant. Maybe more important now.

    Girl Talk — Not a rapper, but his production and remixing of hip-hop has created some of the best rap tracks of the last 10 years.

    Cee-Lo Green — primarily for his work with Gnarls Barkley. Not only is that album one of the most interesting productions I’ve ever heard, it expanded the emotional vocabulary of mainstream hip-hop. Sucks live though and I hear he’s a prick.

    Jill Scott — that voice!

    Blackalicious — Seeing him live will melt your face. I didn’t know I could listen this fast, much less that anyone could talk that fast, in rythm, with tongue twisters.

    T.I. — Best delivery in the game right now, imo. So much style and swag (which I generally hate, but I believe it from T.I.) Talks about a bunch of things that gross me out morally, but I still love it.

    The Roots — If you don’t know, now you know.

    Missy Elliot — mainly for production. She was a more relevant rapper in the mid-late 90s, but her production continued to blossom in the 00s.

    Talib Kweli — again, terrible live. But technical level, wow.

    The Game — Say what you will of his authenticity, or bizarre behavior, but n a technical level, he is an incredible rapper. Just, he is a great, great writer, with too little to say. But he did put a cell phone recording of his daughter’s birth into the middle of a gangsta rap song on his last disc, so that counts for something.

    The Streets — Completely different than what you would expect from, “England’s biggest Chav rapper”. First record was just so unique. Second was a deeply layered concept album with no need for psychedelic elements to keep your interest. A great observer of slang and jargon, kinda Mamet-y, almost. Great emotions on his most recent, most mature and most sonically pleasing album that manages to surpass the others, in spite of totally abandoning his signature dialect specificity.

    Yelawolf — his clean delivery, memorable metaphors and super distinct voice makes him more than just a southern eminem wannabe. in fact, he makes some of the only records I can listen to, every track. Even if it is about shit I usually hate listening to.

    That’s all I can think of right now. But there are a lot of individual songs I love by rappers whom I would never spend money on. I could make a list of producers…

  32. Just relistened to Ain’t Nuthin’ But a G Thang and…yeah. My Dark, Twisted Fantasy sounds cooler than that by a wide margin and Kanye’s verses on pretty much every track are more memorable than Dre’s bars here.

    To be honest though, it’s hard for me to give this song a fair shake. Snoop has been so lame for so long that I can’t see anything other than the lazy-rapping stoner who had a reality series and voiced a talking animal in a children’s film. He’s been a parody for so long that I cannot see whatever greatness he probably actually has. Also, Bitches Aint Shit is one of my least favorite songs ever. And I kind of just don’t like him as a person. I just don’t find him charming.

    Doggy Fizzle Televizzle, however, was brilliant.

  33. Someone said Ninja Rap…that was a Vanilla Ice joke, yeah? I figured it was a Wu-Tang reference at first.

    Anyway, to give you an idea of my priorities, this is a song I sing in the shower regularly.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDDdpxEf9hM just listen to the bit where biggie comes up in a sublime mixture of like 5 super recognizable beats, all meshed together.

    I know all the lyrics, all the break beats, all the different layers and hear it all in my head. I don’t know most of the original songs that are used to make Girl Talk. I don’t always even know who is rapping on the track. But in Girl Talk form, it’s AWESOME.

  34. @tawdryhepburn

    That “How to Rap” book I mentioned also interviewed Brother Ali, Murs, Immortal Technique, and Blackalicious… they drop some real science in there, well worth checking out…

  35. “Just relistened to Ain’t Nuthin’ But a G Thang and…yeah. My Dark, Twisted Fantasy sounds cooler than that by a wide margin and Kanye’s verses on pretty much every track are more memorable than Dre’s bars here.”

    Erm… so how come the Dr Dre album is the widely acclaimed golden age classic by one of hip-hop’s best producers, routinely named as one of the top 10 hip-hop albums ever, which broke ground at the time when it upped the level of sonic detail (upping the level that had been reached earlier by Bob Power and Tribe on Low End Theory), with some of the best deliveries by one of hip-hop’s premier vocal stylists in Snoop, with rhymes written by one of the West Coast’s most acclaimed lyricists, the DOC…

    While the Kanye album is a lightweight pop album by a mediocre producer known for being a very sloppy and below-par rapper, on an album only hailed by today’s hipster rock-critic crowd who want to be cool for liking a hip-hop album, but haven’t really heard any other hip-hop…

  36. Chronic came out at a time when white rural kids still had a strange attraction-repulsion fear-admiration of black inner city music. NWA genuinely frightened a lot of people and broke all kinds of barriers. The Chronic still felt dangerous.

    Gangsta rap as a real, threatening genre is pretty much gone. Rick Ross Anyone?

  37. The Dr. Dre sexuality stuff is not just 2pac or Eazy-E or world class wreckin cru glitter outfits.

    I don’t know if it’s actually true, but those rumors have been more pervasive and persistent than that. Again, it’s not that I have a particular interest in outting him or whatever, but in the context of his life story and the image upon which his career is built, it would be an incredible revelation.

  38. Withe Eminem, I am in the minority who think Marshall Mathers LP was just okay and that Slim Shady LP and Eminem Show are superior. I think Eminem Show is where you really start to see him come into his own and start experimenting with lots of weird sounds. Till I Collapse is an epic, just straight up rap battle lyrical beast that shows he’s not just about horrorcore or parody or ripping on boy bands. It reveals his true love for hip hop as hip hop. Plus, it’s a frickin super pump-you-up anthem type song.

  39. I don’t want to be controversial or anything, but Kanye West’s “Dark Twisted” record is among the most annoying things I’ve ever heard. To my ears it sounds like all the bombast and pomposity of prog rock translated into a hip hop context by a confirmed megalomaniac with absolutely nothing to say. It’s the rap equivalent of the puffy shirt.

    But then I don’t get the appeal of Jay Z either. If I wanted to hear Urkel rap, I’d listen to Clouddead. At least they have interesting textures. Maybe I just don’t get the kids these days.

    CJ Holden: If you’re looking for European hip hop, the French group La Rumeur is pretty good, especially their record “L’Ombre sur la Mesure.”

  40. I think we should just be thankful that all the best hip-hop came out when we were 13 to 23 years old and really into the art form. Not like the crap that came before and after that period. We really lucked out.

  41. I’m in the minority who thinks Eminem started out garbage and has only gotten worse. He’s a fairly skilled rapper (I tend to think he’s overrated even on that front. He just finds a weird rhyme pattern and sticks with it for the whole track instead of weaving in and out like he owns the beat) who’s good for a guest verse or two but never made a good song in his life. If he wasn’t white, he’d be Canibus: a showoffy but empty technician. (I like Canibus in small doses but it’s not like anyone has ever listened to one of his albums all the way through in one sitting.) Eninem’s homemade productions sound like Ruff Ryders rejects and the stuff Dre did for him was the worst of his career, all plonky keyboards and limp drumpads like a Full Moon Home Video score. Eminem is also a sullen narcissist who thinks that his inordinately blessed life (being too famous, having too much money, being talked about by the press all the time) is inherently dramatic and fascinating to normal humans with real problems. He’s the Axl Rose of rap.

    I don’t hate him as much as Kanye, though. That guy could get shot into the heart of the sun for all I care. Only in a post-Puffy world could a sloppy, mush-mouthed MC like him not just get a pass, but actually be praised. He used to have some board skills before he started believing his own hype and went all Steely Dan on us with the overproduction, but it’s really his personality that turns me off. I can overlook being a total douche if I really love your work but in Kanye’s case it’s just not worth it. If Eminem is the Axl Rose of rap, Kanye is the Bono: a self-important windbag who thinks he’s saving the world when all he’s doing is getting rich off of sucking his own dick. He’s the latest in the John Lennon legacy of insufferably pretentious pop stars.

    Any other sacred cows you guys need me to make hamburgers out of? I can do this all day.

  42. I’ll do Beyonce Knowles for you: her over-use of melisma makes me long for the sweet sound of bagpipes. She is Steve Vai of vacuous vocalists: big sounds signifying nothing.

  43. Thanks for those lists, Majestyk and Tawdry. I’m surprised to find I know more of those than I thought, but I clearly have a lot of catching up to do.

    It’s amazing how global it all has become, from Germany to Israel.

    Meanwhile, this is what my country is up to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HcXNPI-IPPM&oref=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fresults%3Fsearch_query%3Dbaby%2527s%2Bon%2Bfire%26oq%3Dbaby%2527s%2Bon%2Bfire%26gs_l%3Dyoutube.3..0l10.322.1611.0.2915.7.3.0.4.4.1.367.815.0j1j1j1.3.0…0.0…1ac.1.JD4QxImNKO0

  44. I’ve had trouble getting into Kanye, just b/c he gives off a serious self-serious douche vibe. Plus, I just don’t really care for him as an mc.

    I think Jay Z is somewhat overrated, but you can’t deny the Blueprint (1). Black Album has some awesome cuts as well. I think D.O.A. is ill.

  45. I think Jay is a great MC, possessing the full toolkit: clever punchlines, great storytelling, conversational cadence, versatile flow, etc. But he’s also a pop star, with all the financial demands that entails. He’s forced to serve two masters, and both suffer from his focus being pulled in two directions.

  46. Speaking of Dre and Jay, the song “Watch me” (youtube) is awesome. Minimalistic. Relentless.

    “…plus, I push more powder than Crystal Lite.”

    “…ice don’t melt, I could ski through a heat wave.”

    Also, fun fact: Watch me is not produced by Dre, but rather Irv Gotti, with whom Dre would later beef by way of the 50 Cent-Ja Rule beef.

  47. I agree that Eminem gets over-adored because pop fans and white chicks dig him. I also think that his lead-off singles are typically garbage, and I thought the Rihanna song was embarrassing. I think his last couple of albums have been pretty good. Not epic. But plenty of songs I’ll give regular spins.

    Even Nas and Jay-Z will say that Eminem is an incredible lyricist. Any of those guy will. Exhibits A-D: the rhymes contained in “Just Don’t Give…,” “Still Don’t Give…,” “Amityville,” and “Till I Collapse.” The defense rests.

    But, yeah, he is way over-exposed relative to a lot of great MCs, but I don’t blame him for that.

  48. A favorite Em line: “Hillary Clinton tried to slap me and call me a pervert. So, I ripped her f—in’ tonsils out and fed her sherbe(r)t. My nerves hurt. And lately I’m on edge…”

  49. I only know Eminem’s singles and I still think that MY NAME IS and GUILTY CONCIENCE are seriously good. My problem with him is just that his “angry white boy” schtick got very quick very tiresome. Especially when he either started to rap about how much he hates his mother and ex wife, but loves his daughter or just dissed celebrities, because he knew a funny rhyme of their name.

  50. I think Eminem’s singles are a poor reflection of his overall catalog and versatility, though you start to get a sense of that from “Mosh” (political) and “3AM” (horrorcore). But my favorite songs and rhymes of his come from non-singles, like the ones I mentioned above. “Till I Collapse” is straight battle rap. His verse on “Love me” is just battle rap lyricism meets his goofy side.

  51. Mr. M, I agree with you about Eminem. I think he is an incredibly skilled lyricist. He has some great verses and songs, but he has never released a great album and I find the content of his rhymes to be pretty redundant an juvenile. I also think he gets more attention than he deserves because he is white.

    I do disagree with you about Kanye. I am not a fan of Kanye the person or his public persona, and he is not the most skilled MC but he is a great producer and unlike Eminem he has made some great albums.

    Tawdry, I agree with some of your list but I don’t see how you can list MC’s like T.I., The Game, The Streets, and Yelawolf that all range from overrated to straight up garbage and leave out Jay-Z.

  52. Wow, Charles. Marshall Mathers LP is one of Rolling Stone’s Top 10 albums of the 2000s. And I think Dr. Dre has called it his best work.

    I will agree. I think Eminem kind of keeps to himself, and I often think he is more about the technique than the content. He’s not generally a storyteller unless he’s recycling his own life drama, which is pretty well played out. 2pac did the same thing. People want him to be more political or deeper, but I just don’t think that’s his personality. Same with Dre. Dre is an excellent technician, but he doesn’t have some deep message or perspective on life to offer. It’s not his thing.

    But, wow. If you are going to elevate Kanye’s catalog over Eminem’s, it’s just clear we’re on different planets.

  53. Dre is also embarrassed by his beats on STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON. Artists are hardly ever the best judges of their own work.

  54. Okay, well on MMLP, Dre is in good company:

    Accolades
    The album won a Grammy Award for Best Rap Album at the 2001 Grammy Awards.[62] It also won Best Album at the 2000 MTV Europe Music Awards.[63]
    In 2003, The Marshall Mathers LP was ranked number 302 on Rolling Stone’s list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. In its book format, the album was moved up to number 298.[9] Rolling Stone also placed the album at number seven on its list of the best albums of the 2000s.[13] IGN placed the album at number 24 on their 2004 list of the greatest rap albums in history.[64] In 2006, the album was chosen by Time as one of the 100 greatest albums of all time.[10] In 2006, Q ranked the album number 85 on a list of the greatest albums of all time, the highest position held by any rap album on the list.[65] It was named the fourth-greatest album of 2000’s by Complex.[66] Pitchfork Media ranked it at number 119 on their list of top 200 albums of the 2000s.[67] The Marshall Mathers LP was the highest ranked rap album on the National Association of Recording Merchandisers & the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of the 200 greatest albums of all time at number 28.[68] It is one of the few albums ever to receive the top ranking of “XXL” from XXL, and Eminem’s first album to be rated by the magazine.[11]

  55. That’ll have to be my closing argument, lest I be labelled a Stan.

  56. I went out to my storage shed to see if I had any fucks to give about what a single one of these organizations thought, and it turns out I’m fresh out.

    I respect anyone’s right to like whatever crappy music they want. Christ, if you could hear some of the shit I choose to listen to, you’d have to call my sanity into question. But that’s just because I follow my own tastes and don’t care what the masses or the critics say, especially when it comes to music, which is as visceral and uncerebral art form as there is. Either the rhythm hits you or it doesn’t. Putting an album on some list is not gonna suddenly make anybody go, “Oh, I guess this beat does make my head nod after all. Thanks, Time Magazine!”

  57. Skani, hip hop as an art form peaked in the 90’s so I am not sure if having one of the best rap albums of the 2000’s is that great of a complement. Also, I am not sure I trust Rolling Stone as a good source of critique and analysis on hip-hop music. I do agree that MMLP is Eminem’s best album and it features a number of his best songs. I think it deserves recognition and accolades for the business it did and the impact it made on hip hop and our culture, but half the songs on the album are actually pretty forgettable. I can understand not liking Kanye, but The College Dropout, Late Registration, and Graduation are all better albums than MMLP.

  58. I don’t listen to Kanye at all. I’ve tried. I really have. Just doesn’t work for me in anyway. I’m mixed on Eminem. Only really liked his first 2 oh and RELAPSE: REFILL I enjoyed too. Pretty creative and just bat shit bonkers at times lyrically and some of Dre’s best beats in ages. RECOVERY not so much.

  59. I do think THE EMINEM SHOW is Eminem’s most acclaimed album for a reason though. I’m not a fan. I only like a few songs (WHITE AMERICA, BUSINESS, SQUARE DANCE and SUPERMAN) but it was a much mature piece of work than it’s predecessors. It’s where he really found a balance and a groove in terms of topics. He went political, kept it personal, went social and stayed braggadocious and it was pretty organic. I don’t really like the album mostly for aesthetic reasons (I think Eminem’s production skills are boderline garbage) but lyrically speaking it’s definitely his peak even much more so than MMLP which is my favorite out of them all.

  60. I’m surprised that no one is challenging Charles’ provocative theory that hip hop peaked with Bell Biv DeVoe.

  61. Mr. Majestyk – “Dre is also embarrassed by his beats on STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON. Artists are hardly ever the best judges of their own work.”

    Freaking hilarious. Some of his greatest beats are on there for sure (DOPEMAN, GANGSTA GANGSTA, PARENTAL DISCRETION IZ ADVISED) but yeah I can’t think of any creative artist who could never find something to critique in their own work. They’re their own worst critic. The good ones anyway.

  62. Majestyk. Of course, you’re allowed to follow your own tastes. Say Eminem is bad. Proclaim Skee Lo as the greatest MC of all time. Laud Kenny Chesney as our generation’s Bob Dylan. Godspeed.

  63. Hey man watch what you say about Skee Lo. I WISH still goes hard to this day.

  64. :-) He’s no Gerardo, but Skee’s got bars.

  65. Skani, as a fan of Em have you checked out the new Slaughterhouse album? Shady is on a number of the tracks and handles a large chunk of the production.

  66. No, for whatever reason I’ve had trouble getting excited about Slaughterhouse. I’ve listened a couple of them. the “Our House” one is okay. I thought there first slew of singles were meh.

  67. The Original... Paul

    September 20th, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    Eminem is one of those artists that I’d like to like, but can’t. “My Name Is”, “Forgot about Dre” and “Stan” were huge, chart-topping hits over here in the UK, and I couldn’t stand any of them. It sounds strange to say a song about a guy who drives his girlfriend off a cliff was overplayed, but you could not get away from that song.

    Of the singles, his whole schtick seems to be: take some slow staccato electronic beat, rap fast over the top of it in that annoying nasal whine that he has, and maybe add an “edgy” sample from an up-and-coming pop star. I will give him this, some of his lyrical ideas are superb (“Stan”‘s contrast between the guy steadily going off the rails and the response to him at the end that comes too late at the end) but it’s all done in a way that I wouldn’t ever want to actually LISTEN to it. It’s not the content that I don’t like, it’s the talent and the production.

    That’s a problem I have with modern hip-hop though: I have a hard time believing that it’s sincere. I honestly don’t “buy” that most of these guys are as hard-up as they say they are. I think to some extent there’s less pretence now than there was – whereas before the nephew of a millionaire record executive might rap about “the streets” or something, now they tend to rap about partying hard instead – but with the rich-poor divide as it is, I don’t see a poor talented kid from the “ghetto” attracting the attention of the kind of record producer who can turn them into a megastar. Unless they go on “American Idol” or something.

    Is that far too cynical? Maybe. It’s just an impression I have, could be wrong. I know lots of the big-selling pop stars of the day get their success through influential family connections rather than talent. (LMFAO anybody?) And the thing is, I’m fairly ignorant when it comes to the subject of this kind of music. I could definitely be tarnishing my idea of the “real” hip-hop stars with what I know about the ones who are only there because they’re cousins of the Gordys or the Jacksons or whatever.

  68. Truthfully, My Name Is, Forgot about Dre, and Stan get no spins from me. I never really cared for any of those records. Nor did I care for Not Afraid, the Rihanna one, The Real Slim Shady, etc. His singles are almost like a separate alter ego record sales whore thing.

  69. I think MY NAME IS, FORGOT ABOUT DRE, STAN were actually his best singles.I actually think as he went on his singles got worse but those 3 songs were good hip hop. If any single was overplayed it was LOSE YOURSELF.

  70. Skani, I still have not made up my mind how I feel about the album. I really like all the MC’s in Slaughterhouse and I had high hopes for their first studio release with Shady/Aftermath, but at first listen I found it to be just ok as well. I like the quality of the rhyming and lyrics but I am not feeling the production. A lot of it is too slick and poppy for my tastes. I do think the new Nas album LIFE IS GOOD is one of his best. The production is a throwback to 90’s era hip-hop and Nas kills it lyrically. It is some quality grown folks rap, not some ignorant shit designed to appeal to the masses.

  71. Slaughterhouse has made decent songs but they can’t put an album together for shit. Same problem with the new album made even worse by Eminem’s weak executive producing. Those guys are better off as solo rappers.

  72. I think Eminem is on record as saying that he doesn’t even really like The Real Slim Shady. He has said a number of times that TRSS was a song he wrote just for the radio, but it is songs like TRSS that appeal people that don’t like hip hop that have helped make Em so Iconic.

    Broddie, I would say FORGOT ABOUT DRE, STAN, and LOSE YOURSELF are his best singles. I agree that LY is played out, but it may be his best song.

    In all fairness I think some of Em’s best rhymes have been on mixtapes.

  73. The Original... Paul

    September 20th, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    I had to look up “Lose Yourself”. It’s not so much bad as it is forgettable, although I prefer the guitar backing to what you get on “My Name Is” or “Forgot About Dre”.

    Honestly of all those songs I probably prefer “The Real Slim Shady”. At least it’s not just some guy angrily yelling at me in a nasal voice. Maybe that makes me “one of those people who don’t like hip hop” although it’s not a song I would ever have paid money for either.

  74. The Original... Paul

    September 20th, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    And again – I’m not judging lyrical quality here. Purely how the song struck me in terms of production. I definitely think “Stan” has a whole lot more going on in it lyrically than “The Real Slim Shady”, but the production kills it for me.

  75. I actually don’t mind “Lose Yourself.” It’s one of his only songs where all the elements gel into a real song and not just an extended musical skit.

  76. Yeah TRSS was actually created at the last minute. I’M BACK was going to be the lead single and then Jimmy Iovine wanted something more poppy. So Dre and Em had to oblige. To me it’s just a low rent MY NAME IS. At least that one had a cool funk sample and some funny raps like a white Redman but TRSS was just corny. Definitely the best of his Slim Shady singles anyway.

    STAN was conceptually ahead of a lot of the scope in rap music back then. It was still pretty hardcore for the most part with guys like DMX and Big Pun selling records. Then you had the more pop friendly guys like Jay-Z. Ironically the producer of STAN (The 45 King) is also the same guy that gave Jay-Z his biggest hit (HARD KNOCK LIFE).

    The guy just knows how to choose good pop samples. I can’t knock him for that. I think the storytelling mixed with the somber sample really gave that song some vibrancy. Gave room for Eminem to express his raps in a new way. When I first heard that song it just hit me right away that way. I was actually surprised that they even picked it as a single all things considered.

  77. Charles: I didn’t list Jay because he’s really not a modern dream team member. Dude’s way past his prime, methinks. My list was specifically about modern people.

    Oh, I totally forgot one of my favorite emcees, SAUL WILLIAMS. Total fuckin’ BAMF. However, his new album is an embarrassment. But The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust is ballistic. As are his first two records. And his chapbooks.

    And I forgot about Madlib.

    And Mr. Lif.

    And honestly, Nicki Minaj makes me really happy…I wish she had chosen a different path, but at what she does, she is incredible.

    As for Yelawolf, I’m only talking about his Mixtape and first album. The new one with Kid Rock…I can’t vouch for that. Haven’t listened to it. But the dude has a really interest vocal intonation that cuts through a track and keeps me from getting distracted by the beat. Plus, he wrote a gangsta rap song about Billy Crystal, which I think is an amazing metaphor for methamphetamine.

    In regards to The Game, I have no love for him as a person or an artist, but his technical ability and the complexity of his lyrics (not content) are clearly well above most 1980s and early-mid-1990s emcees, which I often find to be a bit single-syllable heavy and a bit sing-songy. Don’t get me wrong, I love old school hip-hop, the list I wrote was *NOT* a list of my favorite rappers. It was just good folks doing shit right now. I saw Gza do Liquid Swords in a 200 person club during college.

    I doubt you’ve ever listened to a Streets album end to end if you think Mike Skinner is garbage. A Grand Don’t Come for Free is a really well observed story told on a very intimate scale. Who does a rap concept album that’s intimate?!? And Everything is Borrowed is just incredibly cathartic from end to end.

    T.I. has personality that just OOZES through the track and a lazy flow that still cuts through a track to never get lost in the mix. Like, NWA is great, but sometimes MC Ren gets lost in the (literal) mix of the CD. His words don’t cut through the music. T.I. always cuts through the music. Plus, I think he comes off as smarter than most rappers, more ambitious, I think he’s a good actor, and when he makes a pop song, he makes a great fucking pop song.

    As for The Chronic’s place in history, I’m not arguing that. I’m not saying that My Dark, Twisted Fantasy is an empirically better album than The Chronic. I’m saying that there is not a single day of the year when I would listen to The Chronic over Twisted Fantasy. I cannot stand Snoop Dogg. I think he’s a lazy rapper, a complete sellout, and very likely a murderer. His popularity has damaged the culture of mainstream music, in my opinion. His stuff was way more hardcore misogynist than shit I hear that came out earlier. And he made it the format for a mainstream hip-hop. Yes, NWA had “A Bitch is a Bitch” and “Just Don’t Bite It” and the like, but they were also political and righteously angry. Snoop…nothing. Totally vacuous. I’ve never heard a verse from him and thought, “Ain’t that the truth.” The best he can offer is background music at a party.

    It bears some note that Twisted Fantasy, Nicki’s first album, Yelawolf’s album, Cee-Lo’s solo album and Girl Talk’s latest album all came out during my first visit to NYC and each one of them got an all-day listen while I wandered through the city. So, when I hear those records, I think of adventures, new stimuli and being in the center of the world, so I probably overrate those because of a subjective personal experience.

  78. Mr. M, I agree, and unlike TRSS it is not pandering for a larger audience and was still a huge crossover success.

    Paul, I am not saying you can’t be a fan of hip hop and like TRSS. It is just that TRSS is a very catchy an skillfully crafted song design to appeal to the broadest audience possible. I actually respect the skill needed to write and craft a song like that, but that does not mean I enjoy listening to it.

  79. My previous list of rappers was NOT in any order. More sorta grouped by theme. Brother Ali comes first, because he’s my favorite.

  80. Tawdry – I like some of those guys, but alot of them I would think are more representative of late ’90s hip hop. Alot of those guys have longevity, but their best work was a long time ago: Things Fall Apart was ’99. Marshall Mathers was 2000. Quality was 2002. Illmatic was ’94. Outkast and Goodie Mob were around the same time.

    I do like Brother Ali though. Murs I tried briefly but after the song where he brags about selling Star Wars dolls on ebay I couldn’t take him seriously anymore. I thought The Game was mumbly garbage but I haven’t heard the whole album, maybe I should give him a shot.

    Eminem and Kanye are both interesting and frustrating to me. I think both of them are really talented, and sometimes very thoughtful and emotionally honest, but also they both can be such idiots, they’re total babies who get upset about the stupidest shit and can turn into juvenile idiots at the drop of a hat. Parts of the Marshall Mathers LP are brilliant, and then he has to do homophobic diss tracks on Insane Clown Posse and N’Sync? Why even acknowledge their existence? Kanye of course is even more of an egomaniac and has the additional problems of being obsessed with money and doing the god damn robot singing shit. “MY Dark Beautiful Twisted etc. etc.” has all these tracks where the production is so great and then he adds about three or four too many layers, like overdoing it at the frozen yogurt bar. Okay buddy, you had me until the autotuned interpolation of “Iron Man,” then I had to eject.

  81. Re: Eminem – You cannot tell me that Till I Collapse is not a totally kick-ass, pure hip hop rap song. I think that song is better than any single he’s ever released.

    Forgot about Dre – I just didn’t get into Eminem trying to do the Bone Thugs super-fast flow. Technically, it was well-done, but I just didn’t feel it. The “choke you to death with a Charleston Chew” line is ill, but I actually think the Em/Dre chemistry on that one lacks, and by that point it’s so clear that Dre is not a gangster that it has no force to it.

    Stan – I always thought this was just too maudlin and emo. Kind of psycho-emo. I can’t bob my head to it. Kind of feels like an Oscar bait after school special of a song.

    Lose Yourself – Way over exposed, but you can’t deny it’s ill, and the guitar riff is cool. Em has made more use of guitars than a lot of guys had by that point, and he’s unashamed of his interest in late 70s rock.

    On Love Me, you just can’t eff with this verse, which is indeed brutal:
    There’s a certain mystique when I speak,
    that you notice that it’s sorta unique,
    cause you know it’s me, my poetry’s deep,
    and I’m still matic the way I flow to this beat,
    you can’t sit still, it’s like tryin to smoke crack
    and go to sleep, I’m strapped,
    just knowing any minute I could snap,
    I’m the equivalent of what would happen if Bush rapped,
    I bully these rappers so bad lyrically,
    it ain’t even funny, I ain’t even hungry,
    it ain’t even money, you can’t pay me enough
    for you to play me, it’s cockamamie,
    you just ain’t zany enough to rock with Shady,
    my noodle is cockadoodle, my clocks cuckoo,
    I got screws loose, yeahhh, the whole kitten-kaboodle,
    I’m just brutal. It’s no rumor, I’m numero uno, assume it,
    there’s no humor in it no more, you know
    I’m rollin with a swollen bowling ball in my bag,
    you need a fag to come and tear a new hole in my ass
    you better love me bitch

  82. Slaughterhouse guys are good rappers, but I just don’t dig their songs. 2pac was a good but not great lyricist, but he knew how to put together a song. That’s why I still listen to 2pac and have little interest in listening to Slaughterousee.

  83. Tawdry, Jay doesn’t hold down the summer like he used to but he is still making quality music that is significantly better than most of his peers. The quantity of his output has declined but not the quality.

    I think both The Game & T.I. are good rappers with some nice bars and songs to their name but will be forgotten over time. For example do you remember Bennie Siegel? How is his career going these days? (PS: I actually like Beans and think he is a better MC then Game or T.I.)

    I am familiar with The Streets. I own A GRAND DON’T COME FOR FREE, the dude is ok I guess but I don’t see how he belongs on a list with Outkast and Nas.

  84. Hip-Hop is Dead was probably NaS’ most influential album.
    Speakerboxx/Love Below was Outkast’s peak in my mind.
    Recovery is Em’s best record since Slim Shady, his previous best in my mind.
    I guess you’re right about The Roots.
    Goodie Mob was cool, but Gnarls Barkley and Fuck You are his best work.

    I like Kanye because he’s a prick. I believe his ridiculous boasts. And he made a hit single out of his idiotic debacle at the VMAs. (which I think might have been a plant considering that he shares a manager with Swift and was already booked as the first guest on the new Jay Leno show that NBC was betting really, really big on.) His occasionally weak flow actually complements his songs because it displays elements of cognitive dissonance that I find to be utterly fascinating. He’s showing so many limits that he doesn’t even realize he has. Of course, most of his guest spots are totally worthless.

    Em’s battle with ICP is also quite interesting to me because it is proof positive that the paranoid, self-worth issues he discusses in the songs are totally real. D12 was an ICP rip-off and he owes a debt to horrorcore. He’s SO MUCH BETTER THAN THOSE GUYS, but he can’t let go of it. It added a great deal of tension. The fact that he bothered to actually battle with ICP – who actually have pretty cool production work, if we’re gonna be honest – made him seem literally crazy. Like it wasn’t an act. Like he had a very loose grip on reality. It gave him credibility to me in a very weird way. The homophobia is inexcusable, however. I have no retort for that. I stopped listening to him for a few years because of Relapse. 18 tracks *all* of them about raping and/or murdering women. Even the skits, if I recall. It just made me sad. But Recovery was pretty much an entire album dedicated to apologizing for that, and for the last 3 albums before it where he was on drugs. So, I’m interested to see what he does next.

    Of course, my music taste is very suspect. I freely admit it. My most listened-to Snoop track is almost certainly “California Girls,” by Katy Perry. I LOVE Katy Perry. She’s so much fun to jog to. And Ke$ha. And Mickey Avalon. And honestly, Andrew WK might be my favorite band, and there is absolutely zero irony in my adulation for I Get Wet and The Wolf.

    See, a few years ago, I was at a hipster music fest called FYF (Fuck Yeah Fest!) and I was…well…not sober. My friends were standing around between two stages arguing about which to go watch based upon which was cooler. They both sounded fun to me and I blurted out, “I don’t care what’s cool! I just wanna dance!” And that has honestly become like a Buddhist Coda for me. I like what I like. Sometimes I can explain it, sometimes I cannot. But I’m so past faking liking something, so I feel no shame admitting that I can’t fucking stand The Chronic.

    And whomever said that Em is a horrible producer, AMEN! He’s fucking terrible at production. Why does he insist on producing songs for himself and others?

    Em’s battle with ICP w

  85. “ “MY Dark Beautiful Twisted etc. etc.” has all these tracks where the production is so great and then he adds about three or four too many layers, like overdoing it at the frozen yogurt bar.” You are right Vern, Kanye should have stopped with the Reeces pieces and crushed Butterfinger, but then he had to go and add gummy bears and he lost me.

  86. Okay tawdry, I can respect that, and I stopped buying Snoop’s albums a long time ago. But Dark Twisted Excess Party For Rich People (which I like some of) also talks about bitches and hoes, but I can listen to Doggystyle three times in a row more than I can get halfway through that album. The word dope was retroactively invented to describe Doggystyle.

    I do admire Kanye’s attempt to make a full album with a semi-consistent vision, though. That’s one thing I don’t like about modern music is not enough people do that anymore. And there’s that tangent where he goes off doing a Michael Winslow style guitar solo through the autotuner. I sincerely like that part.

  87. Beanie Seagel fucked himself over with too much kiddie shit. Lil’ Bow-Wow and some girl group. It just sunk him. I was never a fan. I think T.I. is different. He’s also been around and extremely popular for like 10 years. And I can listen to is early shit like, “I’m Serious” or his new shit and enjoy both, for entirely different reasons. He has evolved as an artist and as a person. You know how cool T.I. is? On his first record, he has a long talking segment track where he’s just shooting the shit…and it’s my favorite part. He just has this badass cadence and delivery and drawl that I find hypnotic, even when he’s just giving big-ups to friends.

    The Game is never gonna be an all-time great. You’re right on that one. But his technical skill is amongst the best there has ever been.

    Honestly, The Streets is on that list for diversity’s sake. Not because he’s White, but because he shows an entire flipside to American hip-hop. which reminds me, K’NAAN should have been on my list too.

  88. I agree that Snoop just completely sold out and started coasting. He has not been relevant in hip hop for well over a decade, except as a kind of goofy elder statesmen. Compare him lean and mean on Deep Cover and Chronic and Doggystyle, vs. him essentially being a self-parodizzle ever since. He’s had some good tracks here and there, but he could have been a great MC, and….”You blew it!!!”

  89. “Hip-Hop is Dead was probably NaS’ most influential album.”

    Now I get it. Tawdry is from a parallel universe where ILLMATIC doesn’t exist.

  90. Beanie Siegel is dope. “Sick bastard, get your wig pushed back by the wig-push-backer.” Now, that’s just fun.

  91. Yeah, Kanye talks about bitches and hoes. But I feel like there’s something more going on there.

    On College Dropout he raps about how he was in debt and didn’t have his life straight, but the first thing he did when he got money was go to Jacob and buy a chain. Somewhere around Graduation he got lost. He fell into that entire glam thing that he was so nervous about but excited by on College Dropout. And a lot of MDBTF feels like the socially conscious guy who demanded that Jesus Walks be a single is trying to claw his way back out. That the guy who wrote Crack Music is bashing at the inside of his skull. That the man who was so incredibly happy to be alive after that crash was trying to escape from this self-created prison. And in the end, I think the album comes to the conclusion that Kayne will never be that man again. That he doesn’t know how to be that many anymore. And there is a deep sadness to be found within.

    So yeah, his remix of “Throw some D’s on that Bitch” is pretty much the nadir of his career. It’s literally a pro-plastic surgery as a fetish, song. And not in an interesting way. But he’s also shown a lot of growth, or decline as a human being and changed over the albums and expresses that stuff, both intentionally and unintentionally.

    Meanwhile Snoop? The biggest change in his 20+ year career is when he retardedly started calling himself Snoop Lion. I can accept content I disagree with if it feels like it’s in the service of something greater. I don’t think there is anything greater in Snoop, regardless of if he is a canine or a feline.

  92. I’m from a parallel universe where I was 6-years old when Illimatic came out. So I can only speak to the fervor that Hip-Hop is Dead came out. But, like, every single interview with every single rapper for like 2 years touched on that. It struck a chord that ran deep in culture. People who were totally unaffiliated with NaS had to answer questions about him for ages after he dropped that shit.

  93. Btw, thank you all for creating a community wherein I can say some stupid ass shit like, “I dislike the best rap album ever made and think Lil’ Wayne is awesome” and you guys will patiently explain to me why I am wrong and give me suggestions on how to better myself instead of calling me a troll or screaming. I really appreciate it. I’m gonna head out to the record store and pick a couple of these up this weekend. I don’t think I actually *own* illimatic, for example. I’ve heard it and seen NaS live, but I don’t think I have a physical copy.

  94. Yeah, but Snoop is a cool guy. Kanye is the world’s biggest douche. In a genre where the Platonic ideal is for there to be a 1:1 ratio between who you are and what you say, that matters. Snoop can coast all he wants because he sounds cool doing it. Kanye can work his ass off for the rest of his life and he’ll still sound like a desperate little attention whore.

    Snoop: Bill Murray :: Kanye: Dan Aykroyd

  95. It’s interesting how personalities impact things. I think Nas and even Jay-Z to an extent have some level of sociopolitical consciousness and are just reasonably intelligent dudes. I think Snoop is the pimp stoner of his image. He doesn’t have any higher vision or consciousness or aims. He likes women, being high, and making money. That’s why he’s had less and less to say over the years. He hasn’t grown as a person, he has nothing new to say. It’s just gimmicks, style, and flow. And that has worn thing.

    Now, all that said, I kinda dug his “I Wanna Rock” cut from a few years ago.

  96. I keep forgetting how young you are, tawdry. You should work on that.

  97. Tawdry, I am not trying to be a dick but I get the impression that you and I are coming from two very different perspectives.

    “Hip-Hop is Dead was probably NaS’ most influential album.
    Speakerboxx/Love Below was Outkast’s peak in my mind.
    Recovery is Em’s best record since Slim Shady, his previous best in my mind.
    I guess you’re right about The Roots.
    Goodie Mob was cool, but Gnarls Barkley and Fuck You are his best work.”

    Again, I am not trying to be rude but based on your list I am guessing you are in your early 20’s, because I can’t imagine someone my age (early 30’s) sharing the same perspective.

    Hip-Hop is dead is one of Nas’ best albums, but ILLMATIC is his best album and one of the best hip hop albums of all time.
    Speakerboxx/Love Below was wildly popular and successful and help bring Outkast to the main stream, but I would argue that it is not even a true Outkast album. It was two mediocre solo albums packaged together with about only one disc worth of good songs, and it is nowhere near as good as SOUTHERNPLAYALISTICADILLACMUZIK, AQUEMINI, or STANKONIA.
    I agree about Em and the Roots
    I like “Fuck You” but I would not call it hip hop and Gnarls Barkley have one good song. Cee Lo was way better when he was still down the Dungeon Family. Goodie Mob never achieved their full potential in my opinion, but “Cell Therapy” is a classic.

    I know I sound like an old man yelling at kids to get off his lawn and rambling about how hip hop was better back in my day, but I can’t understand where you are coming from.

  98. No. Murry:Akroyd is not fair at all. If Snoop had gone off and quit the mainstream stuff and publicly mocked Dre for trying to get him to do a new track while he instead kept delving deeper and deeper into his craft to the point where he was no longer even a rapper but instead a guy who could fill stadiums to hear him do…I donno, blues, then he would be Murray.

    I don’t think Snoop is a cool guy. I think he’s a hardcore misogynist who has made tens of millions of dollars by exploiting and demeaning and created an atmosphere where that type of behavior is far more socially acceptable than it was previously. I mean, again, I’m 23-years old. Maybe I’m crazy thinking that Doggystyle and The Chronic had that much of an impact, but when I listen to earlier hip-hop, it’s less gross than Bitches Ain’t Shit, or if it isn’t, it at least has something else going on.

    There is this idea that old blues songs talking about “My woman done treat me bad” are an extended metaphor for slavery and racism in America. I agree with that. And I think that it carried over to hip-hop, even when many of the rappers don’t realize on a fully conscious level that that’s what they’re doing. But I don’t think any of it is conscious with Snoop. Or that any of it is political.

    Pimps are horrible people, by definition. And Snoop holds that lifestyle as a goal. And he sold it in a way that got millions of people to buy in. And I hate that. And I hold that against him. And I wouldn’t if I thought there was more going on, but I don’t think there is. You get what you get with him. Nothing more.

    Again, I’m fairly young. Am I placing blame/credit on him unfairly?

  99. This video with Jay-Z, Beanie, and Bleek w/ Will Ferrell is one of my favorite little gems.

    http://vimeo.com/40642724

  100. I am indeed 23.

    I didn’t say Hip-Hop is Dead was NaS’ best, just that it was his peak of cultural relevancy. Therefore, I include him on the modern rap dream team that Vern asked about. 100s of interviews with rappers who have never even MET NaS answering questions about, “Is Hip-Hop dead” for like 2 years after he dropped that album speak for themselves.

    S/TLB was Outkast’s highest selling record, but they were already mainstream. Very mainstream. In fact, if you discount the fact that each S/TLB sale counted as 2 sales because it’s a double disc, it’s their third best selling album. So, it was technically less mainstream than Stankonia. No love for ATLiens?

    Gnarls Barkley has 2 records full of AMAZING songs. Crazy is the 4th best track on St. Elsewhere. I guess you’re right about Cee-Lo. I don’t know that his new stuff is hip-hop anymore. And he plays with a full band of (beautiful) women and no DJ these days, so…But blazing his own trail and reinventing and remixing genres has to count for something.

  101. Tawdry, I think your character assessment of Snoop is on point. He’s become kind of a cultural jester and basically gets a pass, but when you peel back and actually look at the lifestyle he promotes and has lived (Even bragging about becoming a pimp well after his best records were released), it’s kind of gross.

  102. Skani, that shit makes me laugh outloud everytime I see it. Beans is so stoned.

  103. “Gnarls Barkley have one good song”. Really? They have two albums and both belong to the best CDs of ANY genre from the last decade.

  104. My bad tawdry, I should have mentioned ATLiens as well.

    I see your point about Hip Hop Is Dead, but what does that have to do with the quality of the music?

    I have both of the Gnarls Barkley albums and have seen them live, I am still not impressed. I would much rather listen to “Brown Sugar” and “Voodoo” by D’aneglo.

  105. Anybody got opinions on UGK? I’m new to them. I never got into anybody from the South except Geto Boys, but I heard Bun B interviewed somewhere and he was so smart I wanted to find out more. I picked up a couple albums and they are great, though totally ignorant. But in an interesting way I think. Made me understand Hustle and Flow a little more too, finally enjoying some of that southern keyboard and drum machine shit that usually sounds cheesy to me.

  106. Vern, I don’t know UGK. I know that Bun B seemed to sort of break out as a solo artist ever since Pimp C past.

    For 90’s hip hop fans (and people who dig The Game), two semi-recent tunes I dig:

    Warren G ft. Game and Nate Dogg – Party We Will Throw Now – Totally vacuous, but good G-funk.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mpPDFDSa9Vg

    La Coka Nostra – That’s Coke. Everlast from House-of-Pain sounding better than ever. I’ve already played this song 50x more than I’ve ever played “Stan.”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HaVf_yrq6Q0

  107. Best thing I could say about UGK is that RIDIN DIRTY is one of the albums you must listen to before you die. 5 mic classic.

  108. Nas, Rakim, and an overlong and forgettable interlude from Alicia Keys. I don’t know if this one was ever released on an album.

    New York State of Mind – Alicia Keys ft. Nas and Rakim
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k3x5xxnqAaA

    I feel it’s my duty to educate the youngsters on real hip hop.

  109. Skani: That first La Coka Nostra album was my sleeper hit of whatever year it came out. I got it sent to me so I could review it as a favor for this publicist I know, not expecting to enjoy it, but it started growing on me instantly. They put out another album a couple years later but it doesn’t have Everlast on it so it loses that “hip-hop Tom Waits” element that I thought brought a lot to the first album. He lent a lot of soul to what otherwise might be an exercise in cartoonish nihilism.

    Vern: I’ve always liked Bun B as a rapper but, like you, I’ve generally considered non-Geto Boys/non-Outkast southern rap to be an abomination against nature. But you seem to be even more racist against keyboard beats than I am, so if you can get down with UGK then I probably need to give them another chance.

  110. Keep in mind that RIDIN DIRTY has a lot of sample shit particularly of the funk and soul variety. It’s like an even more street level Goodie Mob album.

  111. Majestyk, I’m pleased we can reach across the aisle and agree on La Coka Nostra.

  112. Do you guys have this experience where you absolutely love a few examples of a certain genre, but you really can’t get into the bulk of the genre, and you always feel like you should like the genre and get excited whenever anyone talks about the genre because you like this handful of things from the genre so much, but in reality you actually don’t like the genre but somehow only like this handful of things so, so much.

    It’s a really weird feeling. It’s like if someone’s favorite movie was Die Hard and they kept watching action movies thinking that they must like action movies because they like Die Hard so much, but somehow they never see another action movie they like. The weirdest part is that no matter how many action movies they see and don’t like, they will never be convinced that they don’t like action movies because Die Hard is their all-time favorite movie.

    That’s my relationship with hip-hop. There are like 5-10 hip-hop records that I listen to all the time, but no matter how much other stuff I check out I never seem to like any of it. A lot of times there’s a cool track or two that I can get into, but I never seem to hear a consistently great record.

  113. Eric, it’s all good. I know a lot of people who don’t “get” hip hop. I frankly don’t get classical music or Bob Dylan (whom I mentioned earlier but actually don’t care for myself). I can appreciate these things aesthetically, and I can recognize that they do something special for other people. But, for me, they just don’t compute. So, no shame if a genre’s not your bag.

  114. Skani, I think we’re talking about slightly different things, though. It’s not that I can’t get into hip-hop the way you can’t get into classical music or Bob Dylan. It’s more like if Blonde on Blonde was one of your favorite records of all-time and did all sorts of special things for you but for whatever reason you couldn’t even listen to any of Dylan’s other albums. In that case, would you still say you didn’t get Bob Dylan or that it wasn’t your bag? Or would you say that you really liked Bob Dylan but that for some reason Blonde on Blonde was the only record you could really get into? Or what? It’s a weird feeling.

    Maybe I just haven’t been exposed to enough things, because I think the hip-hop I like is all pretty unique. What I like is Dead Prez, the Coup, Public Enemy, Latyrx, Mos Def, Saul Williams, and the Deltron 3030 album. There is nothing that sounds like Dead Prez. There is nothing that sounds like the Bomb Squad. There is nothing that sounds like the Reznor/Williams collaborations. There is nothing like that Latyrx record. If I’m wrong, I would really like to know, because then I can start liking hip-hop instead of just liking a couple artists.

    Another thing that maybe I’m wrong about is that a lot of hip-hop artists seem to see tracks as full artistic statements and albums as just collections of tracks. This is sort of a pop-music mentality. There are certain tracks I really like, but then if I try to listen to a whole album 25% of it is boring or stupid and the whole thing is always 15 minutes too long. I find it really hard to get into artists whose records aren’t cogent and consistent.

  115. The Original... Paul

    September 21st, 2012 at 4:51 am

    As another person who just hasn’t “gotten into” hip hop (going on Vern’s definition here), “Speakerboxx / Love Below” is one of the few full albums of its genre that I own. And I love most of it. Some of it fails, but the ratio of success to failure is pretty good.

    Kanye West’s “Gold Digger” was one of my surprise favorites from a few years ago. I freaking love that song. And that’s coming from somebody who instantly hated Kanye West’s work on the basis of the first two singles of his I heard (I still think that one that covers “Diamonds are Forever” is easily one of the most hateable songs I’ve ever heard.) But with “Gold Digger”, he had me. Chris Brown and Beyonce should take note: THAT is how you “diss” your ex (or somebody else’s ex?) in a pop song. Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t single-handedly converted me into a Kanye fan. But it’s still pretty awesome.

    Also for some reason it just tickles me to hear a rapper using the term “bloke”. It’s so out-of-leftfield for the genre.

    Skani – two comments on the Alicia Keys / Nas / Rakim mashup.

    First of all, isn’t that the bass line from “It’s all about the Benjamins” by Puff Diddy, or whatever the heck he’s calling himself nowadays?

    Secondly, I won’t judge the rapping as I don’t have enough points of comparison. Sounds good to my uneducated ears anyway. But what the heck is Alicia Keys doing on that track? She couldn’t be more out of place. It’s like when they do a “rap break” on a pop or soft rock song – 99 times out of a hundred I will hate that. If you’re going to do a rap song, do a rap song. Don’t just throw in a genre-bender that doesn’t fit the song anyway. That’s why “New York State of Mind” by Alicia Keys (solo) was one of my favorite songs of its year, and “New York State of Mind” by Alicia Keys and Jay-Z was one of my least favorite. I don’t know how well-regarded Jay-Z is generally, but he sounded ridiculous on that one. Totally spoilt the song for me.

    Three people have now separately brought up Katy Perry in this thread. A Katy Perry docufilm has just been released. Vern, I think you should take this as a hint. :D

  116. O.P., I think that’s an original song and not a mashup. The bass-line is reminiscent of Benjamins, but I don’t thin it’s a straight sample. It’s not a great song, but Nas and Rakim are two the greats, so it’s cool to see them together.

    “A pain, I’m like Saddam Hussein, still alive, lookin’ at his dead children’s burnt remains. I burnt the game, learnt you lames a new lesson. Your crew’s soft, man. Y’all need some new weapons.”

    Diagnosis: Ill.

  117. Ahh, someone else had the same reaction. NY State of Mind minus Alicia Key’s extended spaz-out.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4BMVJSv_3o

  118. Eric: My fondness for country & western begins and ends with Patsy Cline. The rest (even Hank Williams and Johnny Cash)? Jareeth don’t like it. He thinks it’s not kosher.

  119. Vern, I am a big Bun B fan. The old UGK albums are classics. Bun has a great voice and delivery in addition to also being an underrated lyricists. I think he is one of the best MC’s you can get on a posse cut, because nobody else sounds like Bun and he always stands out. Another MC that I really like that has been around forever but is kind of slept on it E-40. 40 is another guy that has his own unique delivery and style of rhyming. I also think he is pretty hilarious. I think that he is one of the few MC with real street cred that has never been afraid to not take himself so seriously. I highly recommend his debut album FEDERAL. The base heavy minimalistic production is great. “ Fedral”, “Rat Heads”, and “Carlos Rossi” are just a few of my favorites from the album.

  120. Skani & Mr. M, I also like La Coka Nostra and I am a big fan of Non Phixion. Non Phixion’s THE FUTURE IS NOW is a favorite of mine.

  121. I hope I haven’t come off as being too “Everything was better in the good ol’ days, which coincidentally took place right before I got old and bitter.” I do feel that hip-hop becoming big business and the institution of cost-prohibitive sampling laws combined to make hip-hop far less interesting than it used to be, but there’s still good stuff out there. I actually think this has been one of the better years for hip-hop in a while.

    I just got the new Aesop Rock. His style gets pretty wearying over the long haul (as all stream-of-consciousness writing does. Eventually, even the most open-minded types need something solid to hold onto) but it’s still a musically adventurous album with a lot of weird turns that I’m sure will reward future listenings. I also recently downloaded Action Bronson’s “Blue Chips” mixtape, which has beats comprised entirely of YouTube samples, without any kind of clearance because they’re not charging any money for it. I like it because it’s a throwback to the PAUL’S BOUTIQUE era when you could just jack whatever beat you wanted and not have to worry about getting sued. Also, Bronson himself is a colorful character, a big fat white former chef who like rapping about food in a flow that sounds an awful lot like Ghostface, but a little earthier. My favorite track is the one where he keeps forgetting his lines but doesn’t stop rapping. I also got the new Childish Gambino. As usual, his taste in beats veers from inspired to suspect (too much Dirty South shit), but I cut him some slack because he’s my boy Donglover from COMMUNITY. Besides, how many other hip-hop albums feature guest verses from Bun B, the RZA, Beck, and Tina Fey?

    It’s been a great year for old man rap, too. Freddie Foxxx dropped the first entirely DJ Premier-produced full-length in like a decade and a half, and my man Bumpy Knucks is still NYC’s funniest, angriest lyrical pugilist. His song about riding on Gang Starr’s tour bus with M.O.P. and Group Home is like the hip-hop “Me & Paul.” Then I got Masta Ace’s new concept album that consists entirely of slices of his life, from his childhood rhyming over his mom’s P-Funk records to touring with the Juice Crew. All the beats are by MF Doom, who drops a guest verse imploring listeners to give their mom a kiss the next time they see her. But my favorite 2012 hip-hop release is the new Large Professor album. Dude ain’t lost a step at all. It sounds both classic and futuristic at the same time, with some good ol’ New York boom-bap blended with rich, sophisticated sonic layering. I love that we’ve gotten past the era where old school cats feel the need to try to keep up with the young bucks and just do what they do best for their core audience. So, really, it’s okay if Kanye gets all the shine, because my dudes will keep carrying the torch regardless.

  122. Gang Starr, DJ Premier. Real hip hop. I love “Nas Is Like,” produced by Premier. Gang Starr’s later albums are dope, too. The Militia series, Put Up or Shut Up. Some really good cuts.

  123. Charles, yeah, and that one Slaine guy from Nostra is the guy who’s acted in a couple Ben Affleck films. He’s the chunky guy in Affleck’s crew in The Town.

  124. The bassline on that Nas/Rakim song with A. Keys is from Nas’ N.Y. STATE OF MIND AKA one of the greatest songs ever made. Matter of fact this is pretty much part 3 as Nas and DJ Premier sequalized their classic on the album I AM…

    I’ve been trying to get into Action Bronson but he comes across too much as Ghostface-lite for my taste and I rather just hear the real thing. The MA/DOOM album disappointed me at first because the beats were all recycled from old Doom albums and Ace is one of my top 10 of all time so I’d rather hear him over some new freshness but upon a few more listens it became easier to accept and enjoy on it’s own merit.

    Mr. M did you get to hear LIFE IS GOOD yet? since you brought up the subject of straddling the line between classic boom bap and more modern production stylings I think you should give that one a bump if you haven’t yet because it does it pretty well. Even if I do find the album a bit underrated and think Nas’ previous 2 projects (LIG’s untitled predecessor and the joint album with Damian Marley) were much stronger overall.

  125. Sorry I meant to say a bit overrated not underrated.

  126. True confessions: I’ve never listened to Illmatic. There are some gaps in my coverage. But then again, I tried to listen to Reasonable Doubt, which is supposedly Jay-Z’s bona fide greatest, and I couldn’t get into that either.

    Broddie, what’s the best cut on Illmatic?

  127. Yeah, so, I listened to NY State of Mind. Now, I think I can empathize with Tawdry. I didn’t discover Nas until the second album. Same, I didn’t really get into Jay Z until Blueprint. The earlier 94 New York stuff is generally hard for me to get into. I have about the same reaction to NY State of Mind 1 as I do to whatever songs on Reasonable Doubt. They have a weird, dated feel, and I just can’t get into them. The flow seems corny. If I had discovered them when they first came out, I might have felt differently.

  128. Skani – It’s a tie between N.Y. STATE OF MIND and MEMORY LANE for me. I think ILLMATIC is much more essential than REASONABLE DOUBT though. ILLMATIC changed the landscape in terms of cadences, flows and lyricism when it dropped. Akin to Rakim and KRS-One with PAID IN FULL and CRIMINAL MINDED respectively.

    It was the first time that the top superstar producers really combined as one to help elevate an album to the next level. Prior to that producers used to produce most of the album in rap music now a days it’s standard to have different producers on one album but when ILLMATIC dropped it was unprecedented. It was a game changer that people have been trying to replicate ever since (including Jigga with RD). I think ILLMATIC is one of those albums that you kinda had to be there to really understand the impact of it.

    But I think it’s aged pretty well because whenever I put new heads onto it they love it to bits like what happens when I put people on to 36 Chambers. It’s just quintessential boom bap and you probably should give it a whirl since you’re a Premo fan and it contains some of his greatest work ever.

    RD has been retroactively hailed a classic because Jigga became the face of hip hop in the mainstream. However when it first dropped I was the only person I knew with a copy of that tape. Everyone else was either into 2Pac’s ALL EYEZ ON ME the second album from THE FUGEES, IRONMAN by Ghostface and Redman’s MUDDY WATERS.

    It wasn’t till after VOL. 2 HARD KNOCK LIFE that people finally started giving RD a listen and I think they were so shocked how superior it is to most of Jay’s latter shit that they proclaim it a flawless masterpiece even though it isn’t. I think it was overlooked initially partly because it was just riding the coattails of albums like ONLY BUILT 4 CUBAN LINX and AZ’s DOE OR DIE which brought back the resurgence of the mafioso rap started by Kool G Rap.

    I do think it’s Jay-Z’s best album by leaps and bounds though but I guess I could also get why people wouldn’t be too impressed by it. It’s kinda derivative in retrospect since there have been so many braggadocious and materialistic albums by dope dealers turned rappers since then.

  129. Broddie: I know the beats on the new Ace were recycled from one of Doom’s instrumental albums, but since I don’t have that one they’re all new to me. You should check out that new Large Pro, though. Good shit. He even makes Busta sound hungry on one track.

    I have not heard the new Nas because it’s ridiculously overpriced at the moment and I don’t feel comfortable stealing it. Also, I’m not the world’s biggest Nas fan. He’s obviously very talented but I think he got an ego from ILLMATIC. He wanted all the credit for making THE GREATEST HIP-HOP ALBUM OF ALL TIME, but the lion’s share had to go to the fact that every single track was produced by one of the greatest producers of all time. So he got sick of them getting all his shine so he went like Snoop when he broke from Dre and said “Fuck a beat.” And he’s been boring and sanctimonious ever since. I’d still like to check out the new one but it seems like every album he drops is an excuse for everyone to say, “Finally! The old Nas is back!” And then he drops another album three years later and everybody says the same thing and starts saying how the last one wasn’t that great. I’d like to give the new one a chance but I’m keeping my expectations low.

    Skani: Part of why ILLMATIC is so revered is that it’s all killer, no filler. You got an intro and an outro and then nine tracks of solid gold. If you must start somewhere, “NY State of Mind” and “One Love” are straight genius.

    Also, the only truly indispensable song on REASONABLE DOUBT is “Friend or Foe?” a less-than-two-minute-long verse with no chorus about drug kingpin Jay politely but firmly removing some interlopers from his territory. It’s got the understated menace and attention to banal detail of an Elmore Leonard short story. Best thing he’s ever done, really.

  130. I do think east coast boom bap is a generational and probably even regional thing overall though in terms of appeal. Like I couldn’t for the life of me listen to a lot of the shit Tawdry said he bumps (like Young Money) because I just can’t comprehend it.

    A lot of the harmonics of today’s songs don’t resonate with me all I hear is over layered low end sounds and the abuse of 808 drums. They don’t contain the creativity and effort in diggin and flipping samples and breaks that cats like Prince Paul used to master with ease. So I don’t feel it as much because it’s more hollow and I can’t really feel the “heartbeat” of the producer in the track. It’s almost soulless and assembly line like with how generic it seems.

    Where as back when I was growing up in the late 80’s and early 90’s here in NYC I was conditioned on more melodic sample usage and varied drum patterns. It wasn’t just ASR-10’s by Marley Marl I was hearing Rick Rubin using 808’s and Pete Rock on an MPC and the Bomb Squad using ALL of the above. It felt more richer to me but I again I was conditioned on that aesthetic and I understand people younger than me have not.

  131. Mr. M – I will definitely look into that. I do remember liking Extra-P’s solo debut (FIRST CLASS) a lot about a decade ago. Busta also featured on that one and killed it as well.

  132. Since Mr. M brought up FRIEND OR FOE I think I should bring up FRIEND OR FOE ’98 from the VOL. 1 album which picks up right where the original left off. I think Premo came even sharper with the production and while Jay wasn’t as witty with the lyrics I think his delivery is more polished too.

  133. Mr. M – “it seems like every album he drops is an excuse for everyone to say, “Finally! The old Nas is back!” And then he drops another album three years later and everybody says the same thing and starts saying how the last one wasn’t that great. I’d like to give the new one a chance but I’m keeping my expectations low.”

    This is very true though which is why you see people overpraising LIFE IS GOOD all over the place. I will say I’m a big fan of Nas the artist not so much the person. I never really stopped listening and own all his releases. Like I mentioned I loved UNTITLED and IT WAS WRITTEN while also riding on the mafioso rap coattails like REASONABLE DOUBT has some of the greatest lyricism and storytelling of Nas’ career.

    I even liked the retail version of I AM… even though the bootleg double album version was way better and could’ve been Nas’ crown jewel but the only albums that truly come close to the gold standard set on ILLMATIC were STILLMATIC and THE LOST TAPES if you ask me. Like if I had to recommend only one Nas album to the uninitiated outside of ILLMATIC it’d be one of those 2. The latter is his second best release ever and it’s a compilation but he’s one of those dudes who’s unreleased stuff is often superior to a lot of the officially released stuff.

  134. Regarding New York boom bap, I do think that what we like about it is what makes it an acquired taste. It’s constructed from little snippets that clang together and rub up against each other, while most modern music (including modern hip-hop) uses the wall of sound approach, where it just sounds like one giant fascist shockwave. People like us appreciate hearing how all the little parts work together, marveling at how a dope beat can be constructed from something as simple as a bell or a phone ringing, while most listeners want to be enveloped in an all-encompassing sound. I can’t really get down with modern radio rap because of the way it tries to overwhelm instead of insinuate.

    Don’t get me wrong, I often like a big sound. But I think hip-hop, because it is so deceptively simple, needs to be approached with wit, taste, and sophistication or it just sounds retarded.

  135. I should check out Life Is Good.

    Someone the other day said, Oh, so you’re a fan of Wu’s second-generation stuff? I think there was something deeper in that.

    If you ask me, my favorite Wu-Tang album, it’s probably the Inspectah Deck solo album from 1999? If you ask for my favorite Mobb Deep album, it’s Murda Muzik. If you ask for my favorite Jigga album, it’s Blueprint. Nas album, man, probably Stillmatic, just b/c I haven’t listened to many of his whole albums.

    Translation, the early-mid-90s east coast hip hop stuff didn’t really land with me. I was rolling with 2pac (honorary West Coast in those days) and Death Row at that time.

  136. Skani – MURDA MUZIK was their last great album. They ended a great run of classic shit with that one. THE BLUEPRINT is also considered a classic and same with STILLMATIC. Those albums stuck to the essence of the golden age shit and modernized it lovely for the kids of the early 00’s.

    It did for everybody; fans of backpack rap fans, of gangsta rap and fans of more everyday shit. At least be thankful that you had great albums to grow up with. The kids today man I feel really bad for them they don’t get albums they get singles. It’s like the 1950’s in a sense all over again. Only difference is the genre as a whole keeps regressing creatively and I think the culture is near dead because of that. At least here in the US.

    Globally it’s very much alive with people breaking and tagging from Africa to Japan. It’s a beautiful thing to know that at least somewhere in the world the essence is still repped.

    Personally I am from the East but I also grew up on Spice-1, Too Short, N.W.A. and DJ Quik so I always bumped west coast shit too.

    Mr. Majestyk – I think everything is going to shit because there is no balance anymore. The days of hearing a T.R.O.Y. or JUICY on the radio are long gone. Today’s shit is formulaic to the core which is why there are so many rappers and not enough emcee’s. I think it’s a shame that the people who still have to hold it down today are mostly cats that earned their stripes back in the 90’s (Nas, The Wu, Outkast, Common, Eminem, Jay-Z, The Roots etc.)

    Once it went corporate the scale tipped from SELF EXPRESSION to EXPLOITATION. The more money rap music generates the more dumbed down the music that’s pimped on the radio and music video channels is.
    t’s like the next generation whatever it is doesn’t have what it takes to carry the torch or something.

    People don’t get battle tested anymore so we got too many phonies getting in through connections or straight up nepotism. It’s not genuine it’s not anything beyond just rap music it’s not hip hop music like the snobs say. It’s definitely not something that makes you break your neck. It’s just depressing to hear at times.

    I think you can go far too underground. Like I have that issue with Immortal Technique and can’t bump anything he made after REVOLUTIONARY 2 because of this. It gets to self absorbed and most of the album is not even really worth listening to. Same with Murs after 3:16 but then the crass commercial shit is just as bad cause it tips over way too far on the opposite side. Kweli’s fall off is actually near tragic to see and Monch’s last joint had some bangers but was a 3/5 at best.

    Cunninlynguists they find the balance all the fucking time though. Still think they’re the best in the underground 10 years plus. But most underground rap just gets too full of itself and veers too much towards the left. Commercial rap music is even worse cause it over tips too far towards the right weight on the scale.

    There is nothing out there to even out the scale anymore. It’s just another song on an assembly line. A blatant product and it always gets over cause people are conditioned to liking that dumb shit. So they buy it over and over. Everything is like a clone of the previous hit song. I swear to fucking crom that every single thing Rick Ross does damn near sounds the same. A lot of chiefs in the game and not enough indians.

    The days of self expression are gone. It’s all sad gimmicks and half assed albums meeting the notes of the record execs to a tee. Everybody thinks they’re the top guy but nobody has the music and skill to back it up they’re just tools. The anti-establishment element inherent in being an emcee escapes a lot of these dudes. None are true rebels they conform to everything that’s dictated to them. Mostly it’s due to a lot of ignorant people that don’t know where hip hop culture even was now trying to dictate where it should go.

  137. Speaking of Mobb Deep, did you guy’s hear that Prodigy solo joint, RETURN OF THE MAC? He made it right before he went to jai, so he wanted to bust out something real quick and dirty, since he knew he wouldn’t be able to promote it so he’d have to let the streets do it for him. It’s all Alchemist beats focusing on 70s soul and blaxploitation samples. Honestly, I think it’s the best thing I’ve heard from a Mobb member since THE INFAMOUS.

    I also read his autobiography for work. If even half the shit he said he did was true then that little dude is INSANE. What a weird life. Most people don’t go from appearing onstage with Diana Ross as a kid at the infamous free Central Park concert to getting involved in the accidental shooting of an A&R at the Def Jam offices. I almost got to interview him but it fell through at the last second. Which is a shame because I had some fuckin’ questions for that dude, starting with “What the fuck was up with Q-Tip’s verse on ‘Drink Away the Pain’? Did you not tell him the theme of the song?”

  138. Majestyk, I dig anything the Alchemist produces. Stuck on You is an awesome sample.

    There was a recent Prodigy free Complex mixtape that was dope. A lot of good stuff on that one imo.

    Mobb Deep also incurs one of the most dismissive and devastating diss lines: “You little f–k, I got money stacks bigger than you.”

  139. Alchemist’s 1st Infantry and Chemical Warfare are also dope. A little uneven, but some good stuff.

  140. That doc was great. I’m a long time hip hop head who’s mind was blown at a young age by rap. I loved seeing rappers I still listen to talking about their craft. I was about 13 when I first heard 6 in the morning and it was the greatest thing to me. I just want to add to what wasn’t said and that’s that Ice T has always acknowledged that he got the idea from Schoolly D, one of the true pioneers. I would have loved to see him show up and do PSK or Saturday Night. Other then that a great doc that had that made me feel like a fly on the wall watching the private conversations of all of my all time greats.

  141. I hope I don’t regret asking this, but how does It Takes a Nation of Millions sound to you “Nas didn’t really get good until his fifth album” youngsters? To me it’s the hardest, most intense, best hip hop album ever made. The beats are incredible, the squealing sirens are so menacing, the Chuck D voice and sloganeering are so powerful, but also the samples and scratches are funky as hell. I sit and listen to it over and over again. The production was incredibly influential and evolved into the sounds that became Muggs and Dre, but there is nothing that comes even remotely close to matching it in my opinion and probly never will be.

    Don’t tell me you guys think it sounds like Barry Manilow.

  142. Vern, no shame, no regrets in asking. :-)

    Never listened to It Takes a Nation of Millions. I’m in my mid-30’s. The first Public Enemy album I ever bought was the one with “Can Truss It” and then their “Greatest Misses” b-sides/remix deal (I dug the “Louder than a Bomb” update).

    As I said, there are some gaps in my coverage. I should go back and revisit this one. It was probably NWA’s last album and Chronic that first got me into things.

    I stand by my assessment that the Illmatic New York State of Mind (original) sounds kind of corny from my perspective, which is necessarily anachronistic, b/c I just wasn’t listening to much East Coast hip hop at that time. The production is good. The rhymes have a high technical quality. But it just feels like kind of a time capsule. Interestingly, Eminem, on his “Infinite” album was accused of trying to sound to too much like Nas. And I think that’s actually right, and I think it does sound corny by today’s standards. Broddie must be right: Had to be there. Weird, though, because “If I Ruled the World” and some of the others off the second album hold up pretty well (though I know it’s widely regarded as a way inferior album).

    For whatever reason (probably b/c I was listening to it when it first came out), I feel like you can bust out “Nothin’ but a g thing,” or anything from 2pac’s Me Against the World and beyond, and they sound right.

    I still highly recommend Inspectah Deck’s “Uncontrolled Substance.” It’s a very solid album that you can pretty much listen to from beginning to end.

  143. Back to Mobb Deep, I really liked the recent “Dog Sh-t” free single featuring Nas. On the one hand, Prodigy’s whole tough-guy thing is kind of laughable, but I pretty much treat Prodigy-on-a-rap-track as a kind of fictional character or narrative device. From that standpoint, I do dig the grim, grimy, mafioso stuff. It’s a nice, sharp contrast to the mafioso baller image. This is more like desperate, street psychopath-approaching-horrocore than baller music. The keyboards on this one have a great, minimalistic menacing quality. Same quality I dig in the Jay-Z “Watch me” beat, though Jay’s content is predictably more “baller” (ice, etc.) oriented.

    In reference to Tawdry’s comments on Snoop Dogg, I actually think there is a place for calling rappers to account for the destructive lifestyle that many of them promote. It’s a fine line between “real talk” about life in the ghetto vs. just glamorizing, normalizing sociopathic values, which I think Snoop Dogg among others has done, and I think it has a real de-sensitizing effect on some people who listen to the music and aren’t already living in the hood. Again, that’s why I view Prodigy as a fictional character like a Scarface movie–his tales are no more real than Eminem’s 3AM. If I believed he really embraced those values, I’d say he’s a pretty horrible human being. It’s tricky when you’ve got studio gangster’s like Dr. Dre who say “It’s all entertainment” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n497dF5j86Q, but then you’ve got guys like Snoop on trial for murder, Jay-Z on trial for stabbing some guy, and 2pac and Biggie both dead. Is it just entertainment?

  144. Vern: I did an informal poll among my nephew’s knucklehead teenage friends for you: They pretty much agreed that they didn’t like Public Enemy because they sound too humorless and strident, not because they sound mellow. One of these kids told me that Chuck D. sounds more like a preacher than a singer. When I asked what this kid thought about the dynamic between Chuck D. and Flava Flav, he said that Flav sounds like a minstrel show.

    Another kid said that the Bomb Squad was seriously lacking the funk and that the production was too tinny and shrill sounding. He also failed to understand that the sirens and static were effects created by PE; the kid just heard “played out” effects that have been used too often over the last 25 years by too many artists.

    One kid I talked to (the smartest of the bunch) said that he appreciates how PE furnished hip hop with more slogans than the genre would ever need, but compared them to punk and metal bands that are too committed to the aesthetic of their genre to be truly interesting. He said they sound like homework.

    Not one of these kids was especially enthusiastic about some of the more “difficult” contemporary stuff, like Shabazz Palaces or Madvillain. And one of the little smartasses said that The Roots were the Moody Blues of hip hop.

    And these are kids that claim to like hip hop a lot. Right now they like Rick Ross, Frank Ocean, B.O.B., Lupe Fiasco, Tyler, the Creator, pop-infused stuff like that. I figure they’re like the kids I knew growing up who preferred Kiss to Sabbath, or The Ramones to Crass, or Beck to the Wu Tang.

    The sharpest kid in this group listed off some stuff I’d never heard of before that he says speaks to his generation more than the stuff we grew up with: Big K.R.I.T., CunninLynguists, Random Axe, People Under the Stairs, Kendrick Lamar, Action Bronson,

    Interestingly, I went and listened to Action Bronson just because his name is hilarious. Everything I heard on Mr. Bronson’s record owed such a huge debt to PE that his entire identity seems inconceivable without It Takes A Nation of Millions.

  145. So I gave LIFE IS A GOOD a listen. I don’t know, man. I think I just find Nas pretty fucking boring these days. His monotone flow, so icy and mysterious 20 years ago, now just sounds plodding and samey. It’s way too easy to zone out and not listen to a word he’s saying because his flow has no peaks and valleys. Production-wise, I can’t really get down with most of the songs, which either have a smooth jazz/quiet storm thing going on with all the Light FM guitar strumming and saxophone solos and all the fucking R&B singers on the hooks. (There’s something you should know about me: I hate Mary J. Blige’s voice with every fiber of my being.) Or they got a bunch of overblown piano and orchestral arrangements in there like it’s the soundtrack to THE LOVE BOAT or some shit. Obviously, when a man of Nas’ talent releases 18 or 19 songs, there’s gonna be a few winners in there, and it’s not too hard to figure out which ones they are. They’re the ones with big beats, hard drums, samples, scratches. Real hip-hop shit. Otherwise this is just some overproduced studio wankery, the sound of an artist with more recording budget than taste. I see no comparison whatsoever to the clean, decisive production and lyricism of ILLMATIC.

  146. Songs from RETURN OF THE MAC still come up on my ipod like The Rotten Apple or Stop Fronting and Nickel and a Nail. It was definitely better than HNIC 2.

  147. IT TAKES A NATION… is one of the most important albums ever made. I think it’s one of the ones that will be sent to space one day to represent the human race. If you never experienced that album with a great sound system you haven’t lived.

  148. Broddie, I haven’t listened to HNIC 2 or 3.

    The Ellsworth Bumpy Johnson (free) EP is good, I think:

    http://www.complex.com/music/2011/04/download-prodigy-ellsworth-bumpy-johnson-ep

    I particularly like “Go off”

  149. Jadakiss is under-represented here. I’ve only listened to one of his full albums: Kiss of Death. I liked it a lot. Some interesting mix of sounds. Some weird beats that almost have an 80s pop feel, then some harder stuff, like the title track.

  150. The Original... Paul

    September 22nd, 2012 at 11:30 am

    @ Vern: Wow, a rap-related question that I can answer!

    And to do just that: “It takes a nation”… is one of the few rap albums I actually own, and I think it’s fantastic. From the opening onwards, it’s totally uncompromising, but it never sounds dull or preachy. It’s actually a very playful album – it tries a lot of interesting stuff, musically speaking, that I wouldn’t necessarily associate with rap.

    But despite the playfulness, it makes for some compelling listening, lyrically speaking. More than any other rap album that I can think of (and bearing in mind my experience is VERY limited) Chuck D just comes across as an angry guy telling it exactly as it is. It’s been ages since I’ve listened to it properly – something like ten or fifteen years, actually – but I’d like to go back to it so I can pick out a few songs that I think are highlights.

    @ Jareth: I think it’s interesting that one of your kids said that “It takes a nation of millions…” comes across as preachy. To me, that’s almost the exact opposite of the impression that I had. Different generations I guess. But again, that’s the rap novice speaking.

  151. The Original... Paul

    September 22nd, 2012 at 11:34 am

    Oh, and Skani…

    “It’s a fine line between “real talk” about life in the ghetto vs. just glamorizing, normalizing sociopathic values, which I think Snoop Dogg among others has done, and I think it has a real de-sensitizing effect on some people who listen to the music and aren’t already living in the hood.”

    …This CANNOT be the same guy who raised an army of gummi bears that were defeated by Katy Perry’s boob-squeezy-cream attachments in the “California Gurlz” video. Surely?

  152. Paul, that’s exactly my point. Snoop Dogg has become a lovable, mainsteream mascot. The big goofy catch-phrase coiner and co-star to Ben Stiller. Oh, and by the way: he’s claimed to have become a pimp for some portion of time in the 2000s. He’s been tried (not convicted, I realize) for murder. He is quite open about his infidelities. He smokes pot like a fiend and has been a significant modern “norml”-izer, when the fact is that smoking pot like that is not good for you. So, the fact that we think he’s just this lovable television personality says something about how de-sensitized we are or how lazy we are when it comes to fact-checking.

    I could say the same about Obama with the Jay-Z stuff. I will vote for Obama. And I dig Jay-Z’s music. And I realize the dude’s a product of his environment, etc. But him (allegedly) stabbing a dude after attaining hip hop stardom. Um, that’s not cool. 2pac jumping people in casinos, possibly raping people, shooting off-duty cops (maybe that was self-defense, don’t know)–that’s not cool. Is it like a crazy right-wing, Ward Cleaver/Tipper Gore thing to take that stance?

  153. On the subject…what was up with Snoop’s appearance in the BLACK DYNAMITE cartoon? It felt kind of off, like his character was meant to be a bit more laughable and ridiculous(like all the villains have been on it so far) but Snoop’s involvement had some effect where he wasn’t meant to look TOO bad, to the extent that, from what I remember, when BD gets his hands on him at the end, they didn’t even show what he did to him. Like that Star Wars Adidas commercial he was in, where his appearance felt REALLY self-indulgent and pointlessly aggrandising.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Zd_khk6zXo

  154. Stu, I’ll have to check this out. I haven’t watched the BD cartoon, but the movie was phenomenal.

    My point here is that NWA is supposed to be dangerous. If you’re a white, middle-class kid, you’re supposed to feel like they’re cool, and dangerous, and exotic, and contraband. As a society and adults, we’re supposed to wrestle with them–they’re completely antisocial, but maybe we made them. Maybe they’re the people we tried to marginalize, hold down, and and exile–and now, here they are, back to poison our son’s minds and father our daughters’ bastard children?

    They’re not supposed to become comfortable, assimilated friends of the family while insidiously assimilating us to their antisocial outlook and behavior.

  155. I agree that Rick Ross is just garbage. No substance at all, just a complete phony contributing nothing new or memorable to the game. Drake to me is like a less obnoxious, less creative Kanye. His rhymes are okay, but just has nothing to say that I care about and has no gravitas. Lil Wayne is just a goofball.

  156. Paul: Yeah, it kind of blew my mind that these little nitwit kids were so off base on Public Enemy. I know people who think The Clash are too political and humorless too, which is just nuts: there isn’t a funnier band of the era than El Clash Combo. But I figure that they’re young and hedonistic, and music serves a more pedestrian function in their routine of partying, hanging out and making time with the ladies. Chuck D. is too square for them, much in the way that I’d never tell my punk friends in the 80s that I listened to Ornette Coleman. Maybe their relationship to PE is as ambivalent as mine is to the hippie stuff my parents were listening to; a lot of that Age of Aquarius shit drives me up the wall. And god knows I’m not always in the mood for Joan Baez.

    You used the best word to describe PE: uncompromising. It’s what I like most about them. But a long life of observation has led me to think that maybe most people look to music and movies to be distracted and amused, not challenged.

  157. I for one am always in the mood for Joan Baez.

  158. Rick Ross is patently offensive because of his name. Why would you name yourself after a tool of genocide? And who thinks the real Rick Ross is cool? He was a totally illiterate man with a 4th grade education who helped spread CIA subsidized poison through the inner cities as a way of destabilizing Black power movements, justifying the removal of social services to the poor and militarizing the police.

    I miss the days of 5 Percent rappers, now we’re stuck with assholes who just wanna get into the 1%.

  159. And all the while the perfectly badass name Rick Roll was just sitting there waiting for someone to take it.

  160. never gonna give you up….

  161. Ross is a former prison guard, so maybe he took the name out of respect for the man who helped the American prison industrial complex grow to such bloated levels by providing it with a bottomless supply of young black men incarcerated on drug charges.

  162. Since it keeps coming up, you should know that Snoop’s murder charge was for being in the car when his bodyguard shot someone. Both were acquitted on self defense grounds. I don’t know too much about the specifics but unless you do (or are referring to some other murder) I don’t think it’s fair to call Snoop a murderer because his bodyguard bodyguarded him.

    And don’t take the pimping thing seriously either. Ice-T and Shock G have also claimed to be actual pimps. Probly Too Short too. It’s just a dumb thing that some rappers like to do. Blame Iceberg Slim and THE MACK.

  163. tawdry: Yeah, but they put Sacajawea on the dollar coin.

  164. Vern, O.J. was acquitted, too. And being the driver of a drive by isn’t that much better than being the shooter, IMO. I’m not saying Snoop is some cold blooded murderer. I’m just saying he promotes antisocial values, and it’s unnerving for him to be casually accepted as a pitchman and comedy sidekick when he’s never really renounced that stuff. That I know of.

  165. I came also late to UGK. RIDIN DIRTY is truly exceptional, and Bun B a great Rapper.

    5 classic Bangers.

    – Ghostface Killah – Shakey Dog (Lyrics like Tarantino in his prime)

    – Schooly D – Saturday Night (Abel Ferrara had a big fixation on him)

    – Mobb Deep – Shook Ones Pt. II

    – Eric B. & Rakim – Let the Rhythm Hit ‘Em

    – Public Enemy – Burn Hollywood Burn

  166. Although I wasn’t yet that into hip hop, my first album was Eric B. and Rakim’s Don’t Sweat the Technique. The title track was particularly dope. Shook Ones 2 is, of course, classic.

  167. Ok. There are a lot of comments on this one, so I apologize in advance if I’m repeating anything.

    My biggest issue with this movie was that T emphasizes over and over about the craft, writing, etc of rap but woefully ignores some of the most talented, influential rappers who just didn’t have as much commercial impact as, for example, gangsta rap.

    For example, there is no mention of the Freestyle Fellowship, featuring Aceyalone, Micah 9, PEACE and Self Jupiter… Each of whom could be considered one of the all time best MCs…

    Nor is there mention of the Pharcyde, Jurassic 5, Del the Funky Homosapien, Aesop Rock, Busdriver, etc….

    And that’s mostly just the West Coast… I don’t know enough about the East Coast scene to know who got left out on that end, but I’m sure there are some gems in there that would be more interesting than a lot of what made the cut.
    (On a side note, recommendations are strongly welcome)

    If anybody’s interested, try to check out This is the Good Life, a documentary about a legendary LA spot from the early 90s where a lot of those people I mentioned got started. It’s a far more interesting film for those who have graduated past the Casual Hip Hop Fan status and wants to get a little more granular.

  168. Ice-T said he just interviewed people he was friends with because he wanted it to be very relaxed and conversational. So he wasn’t necessarily trying to represent everybody. I think he said the one exception was Kanye, and if so I think it shows because he seems kinda angry and just trying to prove himself instead of sharing insights.

  169. I was surprisingly impressed with Kanye’s freestyle, though he’s not exactly the candidate I’d want to have a beer with.

  170. Can I just say Digital Underground?

    Thanks

  171. I agree that the breadth-over-depth format is a bit of a drawback…actually, more of an inevitable trade-off. And even with so much breadth, Dirty South gets almost no light, and we never hear from Bone Thugs.

    Still want that Dr. Dre documentary, even if it’s all from the craft standpoint. I don’t expect too much from the N.W.A. biopic, since the NWA guys are actually creative contributors. I expect it to be very stylized and whitewashed.

  172. Vern- you’re right. I forgot that he said that. I guess it makes sense, but I think the movie suffers a bit from it. I still enjoyed the movie, don’t get me wrong. But I wish T would strive for excellence instead of pretty good.

  173. VERN: Since you asked about what the youngsters think of “Nation of Millions”, you might want to check out this:

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/allsongs/2012/07/05/156327372/youve-never-heard-public-enemys-it-takes-a-nation-of-millions-to-hold-us-back

    It’s a series on NPR where they ask their younger interns to listen to classic albums they’ve never heard and review them. The results will depress you.

  174. Kevin: Damn. I think this quote about Chuck D’s voice, meant as a criticism, pretty much says it all: “It’s rough, rugged, built like a tank — and I’m coming at it expecting a Bentley.”

    When he talks about being disappointed that he can’t dance to “She Watch Channel Zero” it reminds me that back in PE’s day there was this sort of battle between “bubble gum rap” on the radio and the groups that were seen as more conscious or reflecting “reality.” Back then it was so much cooler to be smart and aware of the world that dumb people had to fake it to fit in. They got rid of gold chains and wore Africa medallions and talked about ending apartheid and stuff. That’s why “Fight the Power” had that line “Don’t Worry Be Happy was a number one jam / damn if I said it you could slap me right here.” Because “Party and Bullshit” was the enemy of smart people, not the goal of all humans at all times.

    The music is now crossbred to the point where the most popular stuff combines the ignorant qualities of the “reality” rap, the corny studio polish and R&B singing of the pop bullshit from back, the interpolated samples that Dre produced and some more technologically sophisticated studio work. So basically MC Hammer got fucked by Too Short while En Vogue were in the room and Kanye popped out.

    In a way there’s way more choice now but it doesn’t seem like there’s as much of a choice.

    Thanks for the link. (I think.)

  175. Nabroleon Dynamite

    September 25th, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    Vernie Vern!!

    Lord Finesse wrote Ice-T’s straight up nigga joint, not Melly Mel and Ice-T interviewed Salt and not Pepa in the documentary.

    This Is The Life is a dope west coast hip-hop documentary that should be seen by everyone with a fucking brain.

    It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back remains the best hip-hop album in the existence of this shit!!

    If you like Public Enemy and haven’t purchased the rapper Billy Woods “History Will Absolve Me” album. Your Mother Should Shoot You!!

    The new Brother Ali album should be bought immediately as well.

    Peace!!

  176. When he called the Slayer sample from “She Watch Channel Zero” (from “Angel of Death,” arguably one of the top-five most famous riffs in heavy metal history) “Metallica-like” was when I forgave the kid. He obviously doesn’t know shit about any music, not just hip-hop. I feel bad that this article he wrote when he was 19 is going to follow him around for the rest of his life. If my 19-year-old self’s musical opinions had been saved for posterity, I’d probably be living in a cabin in the Arctic Circle right about now to hide my shame.

  177. I gotta say this whole idea that there isn’t good hip hop anymore is 100% pure bullshit.

    As somebody points out in the Ice T documentary, hip hop never aspired to be a pop genre. But it happened anyway. Why is it surprising that the trend of good hip hop records also being mainstream bestsellers collapsed?

    Does it really bother you that good hip hop is back in the underground where people are going to be doing it because they are passionate about, rather than hoping to become celebrities?

    I’m not saying I could name you a modern hip hop record as good as KMD’s Mr. Hood, but there are dozens of good hip hop records coming out every year. Hundreds, possibly. You just don’t know about ‘em because you’re cranky and withdrawn from the culture.

  178. Majestyck:

    “when it comes to music, which is as visceral and uncerebral art form as there is. ”

    This might shed some light on why you take some of the better modern hip hop with maybe like a grain of salt. It’s a lot more cerebral whereas like the nineties stuff was more primal, or something. I mean that Cann Ox album (which I have problems with, but also admire tremendously) is a good example.

    I guess what I find weird is that, I’ve seen in your posts that you are aware of some of the good stuff coming out, and like it, even. But there’s this attitude floating around here that I would say is analogous to if, say, we were hating on THE RAID because it wasn’t as good as DIE HARD. Por ejemplo.

  179. People forget how good ice t was as a rapper.
    http://youtu.be/1e6XmXgoRIw

    I love this video. Its got everything.

  180. Well, of course there is still good hip hop being made. We just overall prefer the sound, attitude, artists and technological approach of a previous era.

    What is the name of that good hip hop that was made, by the way? I forgot what it was. A couple years ago I believe.

  181. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    September 26th, 2012 at 5:28 am

    You guys are a bunch of old fogeys. Yes, you too Vern.

    I mean, there’s a reason why my all-time favorite film comes from my just-out-of-college era where I was really starting to get into films that weren’t just popcorn-fuelled blockbusters.

    The pop music that gets remembered from ages past is the stuff that struck a chord with people. It’s the stuff that stands the test of familiarity, not of time. Of course it’s gonna sound different to somebody who didn’t “grow up” with it. It doesn’t have the cultural resonance or the personal significance.

    The other thing is that all the crap DOESN’T get brought up or remembered. For every example you can think of in a musical “golden age”, demonstrating just how good that period’s music is, I guarantee you there’s another nineteen forgotten songs from the same era that are, comparatively speaking, mediocre or just plain bad. Most of the bad stuff is filtered out in “nostalgia” (although unfortunately not all of it). When it’s the contemporary music scene though, you get front-row access to the good and the bad.

    And it’s music, it’s not as though you can filter it out. It gets played in shops, in cinemas, in the middle of TV programs and TV adverts. Do you know what I’d give to never have to hear Bruno Mars’ horrible voice ever again? Hell, one song that’s stood the test of time in advertisements – if thankfully nowhere else – is that song “Whatever you want” by “Status Quo” I think (correct me ifI’m wrong here) – but Argos keeps using it as their theme song. I HATE that song. It needs to die, and it never, ever will.

    My point is, the “popular” stuff may be crap that’s targeted at the casual music listener for a “quick fix” – it usually is – but there’s always going to be good stuff out there. People don’t get less creative just because the tools they’re using change. And if you have to search to find it, well, what’s new? The majority of the best films I’ve seen this year have not been shown in the multiplexes.

  182. renfield: I was careful to try to limit my hatred to specific artists and not just “kids these days.” (Except for Dirty South rap. I really just despise everything about the vast majority of Dirty South rap. There’s really no sugarcoating that. And that’s a problem because its sound and ethos has spread far above the Mason-Dixon.) I’m not gonna try to hide my firm belief that, for a variety of largely economic reasons that have little to do with the innate creativity of the current generation, hip-hop as a whole has gone downhill as an art form and strayed far from what I liked about it in the first place. But that doesn’t stop good shit from getting made and finding its way into my earholes. I’ve listed several recent albums that I liked a lot. It’s not surprising that I don’t care for the big mainstream artists, though, because they’re pop stars, and I almost never connect to pop stars, no matter what genre they’re in, at least not until the spotlight’s off them and they’re no longer part of the machine. Maybe in a decade or two, when Kanye is playing cruise ships and county fairs, I’ll be able to listen to his music with fresh ears. It’s happened before.

  183. Nabroleon Dynamite

    September 26th, 2012 at 6:35 am

    Renfield is on point, but just what problems do you have with Can Ox “The Cold Vein” album?

    Vern prepare to be blown away by the smartest & illest hip-hop artist in “The Game” today…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQOGBHcqQQs

  184. Nabroleon Dynamite

    September 26th, 2012 at 7:07 am

    If this doesn’t renew your faith in hip-hop just go back to downloading The Strokes!!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YOe2voq-FP0&feature=related

  185. Vern:
    “We just overall prefer the sound, attitude, artists and technological approach of a previous era.”

    I’m interested in the ‘technological approach’ aspect here. I’m one of those vinyl fetishists who believes there’s genuine artistic merit to be found in an analog toolkit/aesthetic, but isn’t the notion of a bunch of kids armed with terabytes of obscure mp3’s promising for this generation’s brigade of samplers and sequencers? Furthermore, I can’t help but feel that the distinction you are drawing applies more to the more visible stuff…surely there are plenty of young, promising artists toiling away at their Technics.

    Another example that comes to mind is Majestyck complaining about the over-produced, “more=more” approach of a lot of current hip hop production. But then of course there are songs like this, which in my opinion meet his sparse production rubric:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qhFs_hdA0hI

  186. Majestyk:

    “for a variety of largely economic reasons that have little to do with the innate creativity of the current generation,”

    I assume you’re referring to the legality of sampling. My rebuttal is that you call it a mix tape and give it away for free (ie, Das Racist, who shouldn’t be dismissed because of the ‘pizza hut/taco bell novelty’). Most of my favorite artists in any genre have day jobs anyway…however I wonder what the legal atmosphere is for performing copyright-infringing samples and clubs charging admission, etc. I would like to know more about these issues.

    Nabroleon Dynamite:

    We could get into this at some depth, but in short, I find Vast Aire to be …. vastly … more compelling than Vordul Mega. “Iron Galaxy” kicks off with such an otherworldly, arresting sound, and then I gotta wade through Vordul’s long-ass verse before the song opens up for me. I believe they are both good lyricists but the one guy’s delivery falls flat for me.

  187. ” isn’t the notion of a bunch of kids armed with terabytes of obscure mp3′s promising for this generation’s brigade of samplers and sequencers?”

    Sure, if any of that shit could ever be legally released. It costs so much to sample nowadays that these kids you’re talking about, the ones with great taste in music and a talent for experimentation, won’t be the ones with the kind of recording budget that’s required to pay for clearance on even obscure samples. Even if you slip a jacked sample by, you might just catch a lawsuit years and years later, which is not something an independent artist who’s not interested in selling ringtones can afford. That means that these artists will have to label their albums “mixtapes” and won’t be able to charge money for them. And you can only give away your hard work for so long before you give up and see if UPS is hiring.

    Like I said, there’s lots of good stuff out there that I like. But trying to pretend that the situation as a whole isn’t way more dire than it used to be is just silly. Some of hip-hop’s best albums would be illegal to produce nowadays, and that’s not something that can be swept under the rug with a “Y’all are just old.”

  188. Yeah, when I said “technological approach” I was actually thinking of the It Takes A Nation of Millions/Paul’s Boutique/3 Feet High and Rising days when sampling was at its creative/legal peak. But it’s true that I also prefer more scratching and needle drops.

  189. Majestyk:

    I feel your scenario of giving up and working for UPS to be disingenuous. The vast, vast majority of musical artists don’t actually make a living off their craft. I would argue that removing the monetary incentive from making music is not only okay, but it’s ideal. The kid whose burning passion to create shit forces them to come home from their day job and dedicate hours to their art is the kid whose music I wanna hear.

    I’ve been involved as a fan in the underground rock scene for about a decade (I’m 27), and in meeting and hanging out with bands I like, it’s rare that you meet somebody who ever breaks even let alone supports themselves on music. Maybe you make enough money playing shows to pay for gas and drinks, but it’s never going to cover the thousands of dollars you spent on amps, instruments, and studio time. But they do it anyway because they love it.

    Vern works a day job and runs one of the most prolific movie blogs on the net. You don’t see it hampering his passion, let alone the sheer volume of output.

    Hip hop has a distinct advantage here because you don’t need a shitload of equipment to create it. I’m not a fan of anecdotal evidence, but I’ll tell you that I work full time, go to school full time, and manage to afford a good [enough] computer, some software, and records to spin. I probably spend about six or seven hours a week sampling and sequencing, because I enjoy it, and I would by no means consider myself a serious artist with a consuming desire to hone my craft. I’m only limited by the level of my passion and/or innate/developed skill.

    Lastly, I’m not sure that the Paul’s Boutique wouldn’t still be an amazing album if the Dust Bros. had only had access to out of print, copyright-expired, open-catalogue (eg Blue Note) music. Obviously being able to afford King Crimson hasn’t helped Kanye in your eyes, you know?

  190. I think you have a lot of great MCs continuing to produce good stuff, it’s just that the market is smaller and the sales aren’t great. You’ve still go Inspectah Deck and Redman and all these guys putting out albums. Even Rakim had another album a year or so ago. I’m not saying it’s their best work, but they’re still working. It’s just that real hip hop still exists, on the margins and in the niches, where it always has. While pop-hop sells big records. And there are of course some who traverse these two worlds.

    To me, it’s not unlike JCVD and DTV: these guys are still working, still producing decent stuff, they’ve just been thrown off the marquee in favor of The Rock and Lil Wayne.

  191. Renfield

    You’re the first Can Ox fan who has said that Vast is better than V-Mega and I agree with you 100%!!

    Vast murders him on every track except “Stress Rap” in my opinion, but the peeps I fuck with swear V-Mega is a genius who’s lyrics are to advanced for me to comprehend and shit.

    Yeah, I got douchie friends…

    But if you like Can-O you should check that billy woods “History Will Absolve Me” shit. It’s gonna be in all the year end best of hip-hop lists.

    Mark my words, B!!

  192. “Hypocrisy Is the Greatest Luxury” (1992) by Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy is an album full of brilliant lyrics. It’s pretty much an anti-thesis of the rap music of the time. It’s fiercely intelligent, political, and devoid of any kind of navel-gazing.

    Of course, nobody listened to it.

  193. Nabroleon Dynamite

    September 26th, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    @Tuukka. Sounds like you’d like billy woods… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HhbFWZmBxYE <–excellent use of The Opening theme to The Shining.

    @Renfield. You got a soundcloud? I'd like to hear your beats kid.

  194. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    September 26th, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    Hmmmm I admit the sampling issue does make a difference. Although I’m not sold that widespread sampling was ever a good thing overall: for every “Paul’s Boutique”, there’s probably five or six “Ice Ice Baby”s out there. I once regarded sampling as the ultimate “evil” in pop music in the same way as I regarded slow motion in films (although no longer. Thanks, shakycam!) My point was that sure, it CAN be used for good, but how often does that actually happen?

    That said, I appreciate it’s a tool, it’s not right that it just be taken out of the hands of the actual musicians, etc. We just had a whole period of several years where every major pop hit over here seemed to be a horrific house pop tune with the basis of another, better song to sample. Think Will Smith’s entire career taken to its logical extreme. That was NOT a good time to be a pop music fan.

  195. Nabroleon:
    a) I listened to one of those Billy Woods tracks you posted and I say yessir!
    b) I’ll look into this soundcloud thing, thanks!

  196. Paul:

    You’ve got twelve tones in a musical scale. Somebody saying “don’t sample my music!” strikes me as the same thing as saying “I own the chord e-minor, don’t you dare put that in a song!” Samples are just building blocks, it’s what you make of it that constitutes musical identity.

  197. I’d like to clarify the “modern hip hop is bad thing” – Modern AMERICAN hip hop is pretty stylistically stagnant, but that’s in no way true of what is happening in other countries

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBngga2wv9I
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZlL0FxjS-8
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uteq2UyaUNM

  198. Nabroleon Dynamite:

    57octaves on soundcloud.

    I feel weird, like, self-promoting on Vern’s forum, especially with completely unlearned, amateurish material, but there you have it.

  199. It seems to me that what’s happened is that rather than overthrowing pop music — which was sort of the mission statement of late 80’s/early 90’s rap (e.g. Ice Cube: “It ain’t no pop ’cause that sucks/and you can New Jack Swing on my nuts”) — rap has sort of MERGED with pop music. It seems like all of big modern rap hits — everything from “New York State of Mind” to “Love the Way You Lie” to Kanye’s stuff etc., and even going all the way back to “Big Poppa” — have one thing in common: melody. And I’d say ground zero for the takeover of rap by pop was “Nothin’ But a G Thang”. At least the way I remember it, that song was the tipping point when rap stopped being “underground” and started becoming mainstream. Like, back in the early 90s it was VERY rare to hear rap on the radio, other than the occasional novelty hit like “U Can’t Touch This” or “Ice Ice Baby.” “G Thang” changed all of that — but it was also the first rap song (or at least the first hit song, anyway) that was more melody-based than beat-based, and THAT’S the strain of hip-hop that has taken over the charts.

  200. Renfield: Man, your point about sampling is EXACTLY right. If sampling a song is the same thing as stealing it, then the sampled song must be a perfectly acceptable substitute for the original song, i.e. “Well, I really wanted to buy ‘Super Freak,’ but they’ve only got ‘U Can’t Touch This’, so I’ll just buy that instead.” And of course that logic gets even more absurd when you start talking about the sort of stuff the Bomb Squad was doing: “Oh, I was looking for Prince’s ‘Let’s Go Crazy’, but I see here that this song ‘Brothers Gonna Work It Out’ by Public Enemy has a five-second loop of the guitar solo, so that’ll do.”

  201. I think that there should be reasonable sampling laws. If you’re using a recognizable portion of a song as the backbone of your song, such as when Puffy would take the whole fuckin’ hook and chorus of a song and use it in the exact same way it was used the first time, then it should be treated like a cover and you should pay for publishing and whatever else is appropriate. But if you’re just taking a few horn notes or a little bit of the bassline, I don’t see it as appreciably different from a jazz musician “quoting” another song in a solo. You’re using the same notes, yeah, but in a completely different way, thus making it a completely different song. Treating all forms of sampling as created equal has done irreparable damage to the art form.

  202. Yeah, that seems like how it should work. Interesting thing about copyright laws for music: the right to do a cover version of a song is governed by what’s called a “compulsory license”: you have to pay a certain amount to the copyright holder, but that amount is fixed by law — the copyright holder can’t negotiate, hold out for more money, or deny you permission to do the cover. The actual RECORDING is NOT governed by this license, so the whoever owns the recording itself can demand whatever amount of money they want, or refuse to grant permission at all. There are literally whole companies that exist for no purpose other than to a) buy the rights to recordings that have long since gone out of print, and then b) sue artists who have sampled those recordings for copyright infringement.

  203. “Copyright trolls” is the term I was searching for in that last post (but too lazy to look up): https://www.eff.org/issues/copyright-trolls

  204. Those are the motherfuckers who sued the Beastie Boys the week after MCA died. There’s a special hell full of dick-eating lizards for people like that.

  205. Ha! Indeed. And yet… “Dick-Eating Lizards From Hell”… there’s gotta be a pretty decent b-movie in there somewhere…

  206. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    September 28th, 2012 at 10:44 am

    Renfield – you have twelve separate NOTES in a musical scale. You have infinite variations of pitch (which doesn’t have to stick to those particular notes), attack, decay, rhythm, cutoff, resonance, etc.

    All I’m saying is that as an amateur musician, I’ve spent hours trying to find the exact perfect “sound” for a particular piece of music. I worked for it. Don’t know if I want somebody else taking the exact same sound and using it in their (possibly far inferior) song. Feels like a “cheat”. Although I grant you that “Ice Ice Baby” is a particularly extreme example.

  207. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    September 28th, 2012 at 10:47 am

    Having said that I do agree with Kevin and Majestyk on this one. It’s very, very different when sampling a whole chorus or something, than it is sampling a single note or couple of notes, and then using them in a way that sounds completely different to what came before.

    And you don’t need to convince me of some of the ridiculous copyright laws that are around at the moment. In many different countries unfortunately.

  208. Paul:

    “You have infinite variations of pitch (which doesn’t have to stick to those particular notes), attack, decay, rhythm, cutoff, resonance, etc.”

    That’s a good point and good rebuttal of my argument. Instantly that Beasties song comes to mind where they sample the drums from Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks”… Zeppelin performed some wicked cool sound engineering to get those drums to sound just so, placing the mics a good distance from the instrument in a large space and thus creating that towering sound.

    I guess I just don’t know why it would BOTHER you if somebody cribbed your sounds. Highest form of flattery and all that.

    I’m not above playing my own [synth] drums, bass lines, etc on my tracks, but a lot of sample gurus/purists consider that cheating, ie, part of the challenge and the art is sifting through the library to find those naked bass lines.

    Mike Ladd takes things in a different direction and has live musicians play stuff in the studio, and then cuts them to ribbons and reworks it into his own shit. He said that people asked him why pianist Vijay Iyer’s playing sucks on his records, and it’s because it’s not really Vijay Iyer, it’s Mike Ladd playing Vijay Iyer…ie Vijay becomes an instrument himself. This is the sort of sampling that Majestyk and Kevin are referring to, and it’s the sort I’m most impressed by.

    When you’re rapping over a looped instrumental section of the verse and using the chorus straight, I would say that yeah that’s more or less a cover song and veers dangerously close to “novelty” territory. It’s also fascinating to me though, the idea that you can eg take the drums from one song and the melody from another and make it into something new. I often play this mashup for people of Snoop’s “Drop it Like It’s Hot” over Zep’s “Whole Lotta Love” and usually they roll their eyes, but I honestly think it’s an awesome piece of music and superior to either original song…but I’m kinda weird, I would say something similar about The Dark Side of The Wizard of Oz.

    I really love the line in the film about “Rap didn’t invent anything, but rap reinvented everything.” Indeed.

  209. I can see where you would mind if it was Diddy cribbing your sounds just basically taking a very memorable instrumental that sold a lot of records and adding nothing to that instrumental but spoken word garbage and then selling a million records.

    But, yeah, well done sampling is a real form of flattery and I think is a really unique, rich, meta- aspect of hip hop culture. It forges weird connections between sounds, eras, and genres and fashions something new out of something old.

  210. Paul I make beats for my own entertainment. Have been doing so for years. There are many times where I came up with something completely original. There are also many times where sampling was pretty much the foundation and backbone of the track I created. My philosophy is if it sounds good it sounds good. I recently did something with a Daft Punk sample from their TRON 2 soundtrack and mixed it with a drum break I sampled from a Black Sabbath album. Suffice it to say everyone I showed it to enjoyed it and nobody recognized the sources.

    Yeah I guess the Puff Daddy and Trackmasters philosophy to sampling could be offensive. At the same time I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a more obvious sampling method either. As long as it functions well on it’s own as it’s own song I don’t see a problem. When I hear the song SOMETIMES I RHYME SLOW I’m going “oh man that’s Tracy Chapman’s FAST CAR” I’m completely sold on it because of the way Nice N Smooth flow on it and the way the loop was manipulated around the drum beat. Same with Ice Cube’s IT WAS A GOOD DAY and FOOTSTEPS IN THE DARK by The Isley Brothers.

    This method could also be educational. I never would’ve gotten into rock music as an inner city kid who’s parents didn’t listen to classic rock like that if it wasn’t for me trying to find out the source of the sample on Boogie Down Productions’ DOPE BEAT. Of course I understand that it could be offensive if like Puffy you just decide to ramble some non sensical gibberish over a 4 second loop of a popular song but most people even when using obvious samples don’t really do it that way. They usually put a lot of effort into what they spit to help the breathe new life into a familiar piece of music.

  211. *I’m not going

  212. Forgot to mention that this is why a lot of artists have gotten sample clearances. Because the original artist understands that the rapper or hip hop producer is making an effort to make it function as it’s own piece of music and not just looking for an easy way out. Sampling is a science though and there aren’t too many scientists who know how to pull off that formula. A lot of them just end up blowing up their labs.

  213. The Original... Paul

    September 29th, 2012 at 11:05 am

    Skani – yeah, I think you’ve pretty much hit it.

    Broddie – like anything else in a musician’s arsenal, sampling is a tool. I just find it obnoxious at times, specifically when it is used as a stand-in for creativity or originality.

  214. Paul – Oh I totally understand your perspective. I was never a fan of Puffy’s music for that reason. Using samples as a crutch is the laziest way to create music by far.

    I honor of this conversation coming up here’s an example of sampling done right in the form of my favorite Ice-T song

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7djYYE63Ug

  215. Broddie, I agree with you. Even the single version of Check Yo Self is an incredible sample (of another hip hop song) that is a complete wholesale beat-jackin (which seems appropriate, given its Cube). My only point is that for a guy like Diddy, I genuinely think he is simply milking the beat and adding no value (he’s actually subtracting value and simply coasting off the fumes of the sample). In Cube’s case, he genuinely makes it his own, and for my money, I’d rather listen to Check Yo Self than Melle Mel any day of the week.

  216. Sorry, I mean Grandmaster Flash.

  217. Interesting trivia: Grandmaster Flash had nothing to do with “The Message.” You will notice that there is no deejaying on the song whatsoever. The label didn’t really see the DJ as an important part of the package (they really only signed Flash in the first place so they could use his name) so, like most early hip-hop, the backing track for “The Message” was recorded with studio musician. Flash wasn’t even there. According to his autobiography, he just showed up at the studio one day and the song was done. He apparently didn’t care for it much.

    All this to say that you were right the first time, Skani: Melle Mel had way more to do with “The Message” than the man whose name is actually on the song.

  218. Thanks, MM. Felt like I was taking crazy pills for a second there. :-)

  219. By the way, back to Slaughterhouse, I will say that the title track is growing on me quite a bit.

  220. Nabroleon Dynamite

    October 1st, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    @Renfield. Haven’t listened to everything, but Crack/Doom, Saliva Hype and Cross the beams are dope.

  221. Nabroleon Dynamite

    October 1st, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    @Mr. Majestyk. I heard that none of the furious 5 wanted to put The Message out, but Sugarhill Records demanded it.

    Sometimes the label knows better that the artist.

    Sometimes.

  222. Nabroleon Dynamite

    October 1st, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    Than not that*

    AND STOP SLEEPING AND GET THAT billy woods “HISTORY WILL ABSOLVE ME” ALBUM!!

    This guy knows…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KonQ_39B0uU

  223. Nabro:

    1) Thanks for the positive feedback
    2) Billy Woods is one of a slew of hip hop I’ve acquired but have yet to listen to…the first thing of my 9 or so new albums (all based on recommendations on this thread) I played was that Latyrx album and I can’t get it out of rotation…I mean what the FUCK is that thing?

  224. So I finally watched Ice-T-s first film, THE ART OF RAP, the first film by Ice-T. And I had a big ol’ smile on my face the whole time. Naturally, the first half in New York was my favorite. Not only do I just tend to prefer New York rap, but I think the interviews were more interesting and honest. The L.A. dudes all seemed to have mansions and swimming pools, but it made the NY cats more human to see them hanging out in their humble apartments with the throw pillows and doilies like they’re visiting their grandma. But maybe I’m biased. Hell, the very first shot of the movie, the one that shows Roosevelt Island and the 59th Street Bridge, has my office barely visible on the left side of the screen, near the candy-striped smokestacks of the gas company. (These smokestacks also appeared in THE AVENGERS, allowing me to temporarily locate myself within the Marvel Universe.) The whole movie made me so proud to live in this city where you might just spot a living legend on any corner. Giants walk these streets.

    I am ashamed to admit that I’ve been sleeping on Grandmaster Caz for all these decades. I’d listened to some Cold Crush Brothers, of course, but never really gave them much thought. But Caz is fucking NICE, man. That verse he wrote right there in front of the camera was sick. It’s so inspiring to think of him in his little apartment, filling up notebooks with rhymes just for the love of it. It makes me want to start a Kickstarter campaign to finally get him paid for his stolen rhymes from “Rapper’s Delight.”

    One cool thing I noticed in the credits is that at least two members of Ice-T’s old posse, the Rhyme Syndicate, were credited as associate producers: Hen Gee and Sean E. Sean. The former did an album with DJ Evil E (who I did not see in the credits, unless he changed his name), while the latter was in the skit at the beginning of “Lifestyles of the Rich & Infamous”. It’s great that Ice has stayed cool with his old homeboys even after being a Hollywood fixture for 20 years.

    Sadly, I must say that Ice’s freestyle was the worst in the movie. He sounded really rusty, and his voice lost its laidback sinister feel and tried to get too self-consciously thuggish.

    I’m also big enough to admit that Kanye’s verse was decent. Some good lines, some clearly heartfelt subject matter, but the delivery and flow still sound forced to me. He’s clearly working his ass off but he’ll just never be a natural MC. I’ll give him some credit for his lyricism but it doesn’t change my perception of him as someone who’ll drench himself in flop sweat for your approval and then throw a hissy fit when he doesn’t get it.

    Also, Eminem’s verse was clever, as should be expected, but I just really don’t care about listening to him battle rap the entire American press corps yet again. Just seems petty and self-involved. He came off as much more likable when he was just talking about his pure love of rhyming.

    Anyway, excellent documentary. I want to see it again.

  225. Oh! My favorite part was probably when Kool Keith admitted that he had a battle verse already written for every rapper, just in case. Let’s hope those verses never fall into the wrong hands. It’d be like that Justice League story when some villains got ahold of Batman’s contingency plans for all his superpowered allies and took everybody down.

  226. Did you notice that Kool Keith’s regular speaking voice is most similar to Mr. Gerbik of all his characters? Mind-blowing.

  227. Well, he’s talked a little funny ever since he got that relocated saliva gland from 1-800-PP5-1DOODOO. But it was worth it to clear up all that chimpanzee acne.

  228. Peace….The doc was GREAT and these comments were very interesting. The 1st post says it wa Pepa, but it really was Salt.
    My teen manchild and I rocked so many of those artists in our little Utopia we made in So. Central L.A. It was divine watching this piece of people we respect. I tell him if any memory issues occur with me through the years quiz me on those jams. But now play that doc and let me watch the youngstas rock…
    (O)riginal (G)oddess
    KEEDAH

  229. *BIG spoilers in this long-ass post.*

    I’m late on seeing this movie, but man, did I ever love it. If you grew up loving rap for its lyrics, I’ve been going around recommending it to everybody I know who isn’t really into rap. There are some AMAZING moments in this movie–insights on rappers and their various processes that were fascinating to me.

    – Royce, known for selling out early on in his career (making a song with Willa Ford, the original version of the Rock City album, etc.) saying he makes music to be respected by his peers.

    – Every single verse Grandmaster Caz spits in this movie.

    Majestyk, that list of albums is great. Anybody recommending The Beatnuts (esp. Street Level) gets my two thumbs up.

    – Ice-T and Eminem talking about Treach / Naughty by Nature, then Em out of nowhere going into the first verse on “Yoke the Joker”. (Also, it’s a given, but Em’s verse is incredible. When this dude freestyles lately, he invents an entirely new style on the spot. Insane.)

    – Joe Budden spitting from the opening track on Mood Muzik 2. This is a perfect scene to show anyone why rap music is such a serious art form. Stunning.

    – Rakim talking about his writing process with the dots on the paper, and his explanation of how jazz and visuals, and why Slick Rick is a great storyteller.

    – Ras Kass stealing a school desk and sticking to the school desk exclusively for writing rhymes. And then Ice-T actually explaining how he is offensively smart to most people.

    The biggest complaint is more about who’s not in it. Jay, Outkast, Wu-Tang (excl. Raekwon), Mobb Deep, Scarface, and G Rap feel like the biggest gaping holes, and underground / indie rap seems completely ignored outside of Immortal Technique. There are no new gen. artists covered–I think the most new-gen people I saw were Mos and Kanye. But this is nitpicking–this movie is a fucking classic.

    Paul, here are some some random favorite songs (for anybody not familiar/ curious about getting into the music):

    Smoothe the Hustler & Trigger the Gambler – “Broken Language” & “Bust”

    Scarface, “I seen a man die”

    Redman, “Funkorama” & “Green Island”

    Cormega, “Dirty Game” & “Journey”

    Royce, “Ding”

    Rakim, “Know the Ledge” & “I Know you got soul”

    Atmosphere, “God’s Bathroom Floor” & “1597”

    Black Moon, “Buck em down” (esp. the remix)

    Ras Kass, “Jack Frost” & “Soul on Ice” (remix)

    Nas, “Find your wealth” & “I gave you power”

  230. Sorry, forgot to edit that. I addressed that song list to Paul cos he seemed curious about listening to more of the music. Those songs are just good intros to what the music is all about, imo.

  231. Quite a bit after this thread was more active, I really got into that Billy Woods album Nabroleon was pushing. Really punishing stuff. Not an easy listen but you feel like you’ve done something worthwhile with your time after you get through it.

    2012 was a great year for hip hop. The Killer Mike album R.A.P. MUSIC finds El-P delving into that Atlanta production style and it turns out to be a brilliant pairing. Ka murmurs his way through GRIEF PEDIGREE and it’s quite good but doesn’t hold a candle to the downright chilling RELOADED by Roc Marciano. Homeboy Sandman, maybe the most creative and unpredictable active emcee, dropped one full length and two ep’s that are not to be missed (even if none of them are quite as unbridled as GOOD SUN).

    But probably the best one was (shockingly) Kendrick Lamar’s GOOD KID, MAAD CITY. It’s pretentious but has so much feckin heart that it won me over. I could go on for days about why this is such an emotional, revitalizing record, one which gives me so much hope for the future of the medium. I’m glad the kids are listening to it.

Leave a Reply





XHTML: You can use: <a href="" title=""> <img src=""> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <b> <i> <strike> <em> <strong>